When you're putting together a family emergency plan, consider this: Your pets are every bit as reliant upon you as a young child would be.
We've gone to experts in pet safety to get the best safety advice, including the ASPCA and the dog expert, Jeff Franklin, our resident canine guru.
1. Pack water and dry food. Have them at the ready.
2. Make sure your cat or dog is drinking safe water.
3. Mind your dog's feet! Pads are soft and easily damaged.
4. Keep your dog dry. When wet, get her dried off right away.
5. Heat kills. Dogs don't do well with direct sunlight or extended heat. Find shade!
ANIMALS ARE FAMILY. THINK AHEAD TO KEEP THEM SAFE
"Owning a pet is a big commitment. You never get a day off. Planning ahead is critical. When it comes to a disaster situation, that planning is even more important."
ESSENTIAL SAFETY GEAR FOR PETS
Importance: Crucial for dog owners.
Bottom line: You should have a go-bag-sized medical kit. This one works for both humans and pets. Otherwise, we also like the Adventure Medical Kits Daytripper First-Aid Kit, which would suffice for you and your furry family.
Recommended for: Go bag, vehicle kits.
Be aware: This has the standard stuff you'd find in a kit, but includes a few extras like a bandage that can be used to muzzle a dog, and a special bandage that doesn't stick to fur. This dog-specific emergency kit isn't mandatory — but having a light, transportable first-aid kit should be!
Key advice: "Go carefully over your dog's feet and pads every day, looking for scrapes and cuts." Franklin says to flush minor wounds with clean water and apply an antibiotic ointment.
Bottom line: You should get your animal microchipped. But GPS trackers that attach to a collar are an extra layer of security. Findster Duo+ has a limited range, but allows you to find your pet easily if you're both in the same neighborhood.
You’ll also need: A smartphone. You don't need a monthly plan, however.
Be aware: The collar GPS unit communicates wirelessly with a node you keep with you. It works up to three miles away in open spaces, and much less in areas with lots of buildings and foliage. So while it's not exactly foolproof, it should allow owners to find pets who get out of the yard or immediate vicinity. If you want GPS units with far greater range (and a monthly fee), look to the Whistle 3 GPS pet tracker, which runs on the AT&T cellular network.
Importance: Important, esp. for bigger dogs.
Bottom line: Protection for dogs' soft paws after an emergency situation, which often involves sharp debris or flooding situations.
Be aware: You have to first condition your dog to get used to wearing booties. And it's likely to take a while. See notes below, and a separate review from a tester in Chicago.
Key advice: "The first time you put the booties on, your dog will act weird," says Franklin. "With dogs, consistency is everything. And they have a short attention span. So start with those two minutes a day and work up to five minutes the next week. Then ten, and so on. Eventually you will only have to put the booties on once a month to remind the dog what they feel like."
Bottom line: A LED light that attaches to the dog's harness so your pup can be easily spotted in low light. A good safety addition for both you and your animal. Waterproof, rechargeable, and VERY bright.
Be aware: Lasts about 20 hours on a charge. Can be recharged using a USB.
Importance: Handy for pet owners.
Bottom line: Pet owners who have to hit the road with their pets may find a lightweight, collapsible water and food dish like the Ruffwear a sanity saver. Your pet will already be stressed out enough in an emergency situation. This one is tough and works well.
Recommended for: Go bag, vehicle kit.
You'll also need: Clean water. (Your dog or cat needs to have their water decontaminated, too!)
Key advice: Our resident dog expert, Jeff Franklin, counsels that you should pack a week's worth of dry dog food in a Ziplock in both your go bag and vehicle.
Bottom line: A nice travel food bag. It rolls up, has a spout for pouring out kibble, and fits up to 40 cups of food. Great for extended food storage inside your vehicle. (Though a sealed plastic bag would also work.)
Recommended for: Vehicle kit.
Importance: Handy for pet owners.
Bottom line: Overheating is a big danger to dogs. Says our dog expert: "Heat is my number one fear for all dogs ... Make a shade tent out of a tarp if you need to, or a lean-to." This pop-up tent provides shade for smaller dogs, and we've found that they actually love to go inside. Great for a vehicle kit.
You'll also need: Plenty of water and ventilation!
Be aware: It's light, which makes storage easy. But it won't keep out heavy wind or rain.
Key advice: Any type of lean-to or shade will work. What's imperative is to keep your dog out of direct sunlight. Our dog expert, Jeff Franklin, says: "Heat is my number one fear for all dogs. Dogs are just not designed to be out in 90 degree heat with the sun beaming down. They naturally go to shade. If you have to travel, try to do it when its dark or cloudy."
"I never let my dogs drink water that I'm not sure about. All kinds of harmful stuff can get into water sources, whether its giardia, antifreeze, or even gasoline. Dogs get the same GI tract problems we do."
SAFELY TRANSPORT YOUR PET
If at all possible, take your pets with you when you evacuate. You may not be able to get back to your house easily afterward. The best way to ensure that this happens is to evacuate early. Don't wait are you may be stuck at home — or have to abandon your pets at home. Your trusty pet carrier should be readily accessed at a moment's notice. Even better if the carrier has restraints to seat-belt it into a vehicle.
Identify pet-friendly hotels within driving distance. You should instead make a list of places you can book on a moment’s notice in a reasonable driving radius, presuming the nature of the disaster is one that gives you time to react deliberately.
HARNESSES AND PET CARRIERS
Importance: Crucial for small pet owners.
Bottom line: Be darn sure you have a pet carrier which fits your small dog or cat — one suited for road and airline travel. If you've got to evacuate your home by air or car, you don't want to find yourself looking for a pet store in the middle of a hurricane. For bullet-proof construction that works in both cars and airlines, we like the Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier. It has three critical functions: It fits under airline seats; it is specifically made to be secured by a car seat belt, and it has actually been crash tested, using the same methods as those used to test child seats.
Recommended for: Pets under 17 pounds.
Importance: Crucial for dogs.
Bottom line: You want the best leash sold on the market to help control your canine, and keep her comfortable. The Front Range Adventure Harness, shown here in orange, gets high marks for its dual point attachments, tough construction, including all aluminum attachment rings and tear-proof webbing, and an eye to a perfect fit. The Web Master Pro is even sturdier, has a handle for pulling up a dog, and zippered pouches.
Be aware: Dogs must be conditioned to any new harness or pouch. Use it daily to get your pet used to wearing a new piece of equipment!
Notes: Our testers found both harnesses kept large dogs from pulling, lending better overall control. The harness is reflective, too. However, one of our testers had to try two different sizes to get a harness that fit best on her canine.
Bottom line: Secure your dog inside your vehicle, no matter the conditions! This dog harness meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards. Whether you're in an emergency or just a normal drive, you should have your dog secured inside your vehicle at all times.
You'll also need: A walking harness when your pup gets out of the car. We like the Front Range Adventure Harness.
Be aware: This harness is specifically designed to be worn in your vehicle. The seat belt goes through a loop in the harness. However, the Load Up does NOT replace a walking harness/leash. You'll need a separate harness.
Key advice: Our resident dog expert, Jeff Franklin (you can read more about him and his recommendations here), uses the Load Up with his own dogs. "This allows the owner to strap them into almost any type of vehicle, whether its a car, watercraft, or even a Cessna type aircraft. It's much safer, and also helps if your dog isn't so well behaved in a vehicle."
Bottom line: While it looks kind of crazy, the K9 Sports Sack is a system where the dog is loaded onto the back. It fits canines up to 30 pounds and owners swear by them.
Recommended for: Owners of small dogs.
Key advice: "If you have a small dog, be aware they are more fragile than, say, a 70 pound dog. They need much more care in an emergency scenario. You should have a carrier for them, for sure. And you might consider a backpack or baby-type carrier where they ride on your chest. This will keep them out of the water in a flood, or having to climb over debris."
Bottom line: This is like a doggy go bag. Make your dog carry her own weight... or a bit of it, anyhow.
Also consider: There's another option, a hydration pack, called the Singletrak.
You’ll also need: Goal Zero solar panels are highly recommended, like the Boulder.
Be aware: Dogs have to get used to wearing any type of pack, gradually, over time. Don't overpack or overweight your pup!
Test notes: Our tester, Jason Henrichs and his golden retriever, Lola, have spent considerable time with the gear. He says, "The chest strap configuration on the front of the Ruffwear pack holds it securely in place without impinging the dog’s natural movement or appearing to cause any agita. The belly strap did seem to bother her until I loosened it up a bit. Overall, the rig is easy to put on, easy to adjust and fits snuggly to Lola’s body in a way that doesn’t catch on brush as we walk. The pouches on either side are large enough to fit bulky items and deep enough to securely hold smaller items in place even when not packed tightly. We’ve only experimented with moderate amounts of weight such as a few water bottles and some 5 lbs weights borrowed from the gym. I can already see that I’ll need to avoid the temptation to overload her unless it is an emergency."