Evacuation plans should include pets

By Karen Templeton MSU College of Veterinary Medicine

MISSISSIPPI STATE ­ As Tropical Storm Isaac heads toward Mississippi, residents in flood-prone areas may have to consider evacuation, and those with pets should have a plan of departure that includes their furry and feathered family members.

To prepare for evacuations, pet owners should provide identification for their pets. Proper identification is imperative, and experts recommend that pets wear collar tags at the very least. It is even more helpful for them to have microchip identification registered with a microchip company.

³Microchipping is a simple procedure that can be done at almost any local veterinarian¹s office,² said Dr. Carla Huston, associate professor at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. ³If you and your pet become separated and the pet ends up in a shelter, the microchip may be the link to being reunited. All organizations taking care of rescued animals will be able to check animals for microchips. It is an easy way to identify pets and get them back to their owners quickly.²

Photos of pets are helpful for identification purposes if pets get separated from their owners. The photos can be posted on pet finding sites or printed on flyers to pass out to area shelters.

³You should take along not only photos of your pets, but also photos of you with your pets,² said Deputy State Veterinarian Dr. Brigid Elchos. ³There won¹t be any question whether or not the animal belongs to you.²

Elchos also suggested that pet owners modify their pets¹ collar tags to help further identify their pets.

³Pets¹ tags often have only a phone number and the name of the pet, but it is helpful to have as much contact information as possible on the tag to make it easy to locate you should you be separated from your pet,² Elchos said.

In addition to providing pet identification, families with pets should research accommodations ahead of time.

³Families need to have a plan in place before they leave so they know where they can safely keep their pets,² Huston said. ³Take the time to find out where animal-friendly hotels and shelters are located and make arrangements to stay there. If you are going to stay with friends or family, ensure in advance that it is acceptable to keep your pets there as well.²

Huston, who is also the Mississippi Animal Response Team¹s Veterinary Services branch director, said simple internet searches can yield lists of hotels that can accommodate pets. The American Automobile Association, or AAA, also can provide a list of pet-friendly hotels.

³Whether your pet stays with you or is going to be separated from you in a kennel or at a friend¹s house, you need to pack plenty of necessities such as food, leashes and their medications,² Huston said. ³Also, it is important to have copies of their medical records. This comes in handy if you need to board them or to get them into an emergency shelter.²

For more information on preparing pets for evacuation, visit http://www.mbah.state.ms.us/emergency_programs/saving_family_brochure.pdf.