Oklahoma once again is in the midst of major wildfires in the western part of the state. Fire has consumed more than 366,000 acres with no end in sight.
While some Oklahomans already have suffered losses of homes, equipment and livestock, many more are still in the line of the fires. If you do not already have an escape plan in mind, it is time to develop one now. And that plan should include your pets, said Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University.
“When an emergency or natural disaster occurs, your survival, as well as that of your pets, depends on the plan you have in place. Your pets most likely can’t survive on their own,” Giedt said. “It’s imperative to be ready to evacuate with your pets should the need arise.”
The first thing to consider is finding a safe place to go. Because of the health regulations in some states, disaster shelters set up by the American Red Cross cannot accept pets, except for service animals that assist individuals with handicaps.
When developing your plan, put together an emergency preparedness kit. It should be something easy to carry, water repellent and sturdy.
“The things you’ll need to include in the emergency kit may vary from person to person. Medicines and other medical equipment is a must,” she said. “When it comes to your pets, be sure to include veterinary records and a recent photo of your pet, preferably with you. Also, food, a can opener, food dishes and bottles of water should be included in your pet’s emergency kit.”
Because your escape may be hectic or rushed, your pet may be agitated. Include a strong leash and muzzle in case your dog becomes frightened. For small pets, keep a pet carrier stored with the emergency kit so it is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Giedt said pet owners should consider the possibility they will not be at home at the time of an emergency.
“It’s a good idea for a trusted friend or neighbor to have access to your pets so they can transport them to a prearranged safe meeting place,” she said. “Be sure this person knows where your pets may like to hide to make locating the pet easier.”
It is important for your pet’s identification tags to be up to date and include important information such as the owner’s name and phone number. If your pet should escape during an emergency, the identification tag is his ticket home. Consider microchipping your pet as a permanent means of identification.
“While we certainly hope the fires are under control very soon, take these steps now to help ensure your pets are safe,” Giedt said. “This same information is vital during storm season and other emergencies, as well.”