Speaking of Pets: How to take care of your animals during wildfire season, part 1 of 2 | VailDaily.com

Speaking of Pets: How to take care of your animals during wildfire season, part 1 of 2

By Joan Merriam
Special to the Daily

Here in the West, we’re experiencing some of the most terrifying natural disasters imaginable: raging wildfires.

These fires make me think about how helpless our companion animals are in these emergencies, and how much they depend upon us to keep them safe.

The Humane Society has a very simple edict for responding to a disaster: If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets. This advice should underlie every action you take when it comes to your animals.

The first step is preparedness.

If you’re preparing a disaster kit, don’t forget to include supplies for your pet(s).
U.S. Forest Service | Special to the Daily


If your pet isn’t wearing a collar and ID tag, get them one now. Better still, get your pets microchipped so they (and you) can be identified and reunited if you lose track of each other.

Display a rescue alert sticker at every exterior door so emergency personnel know how many animals you have and what kind, just in case they’re trapped inside.

Disaster Kit

Agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross emphasize the need for a disaster kit—but you also need one for your pets. Here’s what you should include for your furry friends:

  • Food, treats, and water for five days, including bowls
  • Medications, a medication list, first-aid kit, and contact information for your veterinarian
  • Vaccination certificates—especially rabies—or proof of vaccination
  • Recent photos of your pets in case you become separated
  • Toys, blankets, and anything else that would help your pets feel safe in an unfamiliar environment

Where to go

Plan in advance where you can go to be safe: a friend, relative, hotel, or campground. If you have to go to a public shelter, your pets probably won’t be allowed to stay with you, so try to arrange in advance for a boarding facility.

If you can remain in your home during an emergency, keep your animals inside until you’re absolutely sure there’s no further danger. If you lose power, be particularly careful about using candles as a light source, since pets can easily topple them and cause a fire—one catastrophe atop another.

In my next column, I’ll talk about what to do after the disaster is over.

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at joan@joanmerriam.com.

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