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Be Prepared, For Yourself and Your Animals

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Southern California wildfires in October 2007 forced approximately one million people to evacuate.

 August 2014

“It is not a matter of what…it is just a matter of when.”

California residents are on constant alert for a variety of disasters—wildfire, flood, oil spill, tsunami and yes, earthquakes. When a catastrophic event overwhelms a community, the first instinct is to grab the loved ones and head to safety—that includes animals. But many people haven't included the necessary preparations for pets in their emergency plans.

The school’s Western Institute for Food Safety & Security (WIFSS) has actively trained community members and first responders for these types of events on an ongoing basis, locally and nationally. In July, WIFSS provided two Department of Homeland Security pilot courses for “Emergency Animal Sheltering: Veterinary Considerations” and “All Hazards Large Animal Evacuation.” Instructors covered preparations for before, during and after catastrophic events and taught simulations of sheltering and moving animals to a safe place. 

One of the biggest concerns overall—especially during this drought—is the need for water during an emergency. Extreme heat and stress can have major effects on animals. Information regarding water conservation, temporary sheltering and resources has proven helpful for the current Napa Valley activities. Animal owners are encouraged to engage in additional planning and stock up on supplies in order to weather any aftershocks.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and The Atwood Ranch in Sonoma hosted a Farm & Ranch Readiness Fair in May. At that time, the main objective was to provide community outreach and education on the importance of planning in advance. WIFSS led the collaborations to include participation of local fire, law enforcement, the Office of Emergency Services, local non-government groups and community members. Instructors emphasized personal preparedness for people and their animals, conducted CPR demonstrations and provided advice on creating “to-go kits” for a quick evacuation such as during an earthquake.

The Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) at the school is a group of volunteer faculty, students and staff who have an interest in emergency and disaster response. Members of VERT receive training in the Incident Command System and National Incident Management System and become registered Disaster Service Workers. The VERT organization is a recognized and fully functional Medical Reserve Corp. VERT may be activated on a local basis for assistance to veterinarians in the field who require additional expertise in technical rescue or road way incidents which require additional resources. VERT is linked with the primary responders in the veterinary hospital’s ambulatory service area which provides veterinary services and emergency response within a defined local radius. Requests for assistance outside of our call area are dealt with on an individual basis given the limits of the volunteer nature of VERT. 

WIFSS is available to assist with any questions regarding disaster response for agriculture/food safety and security concerns and/or animal related questions. In addition, the veterinary hospital is open 24/7, 365 days a year for emergencies involving large or small animals. 

Some questions to ask when developing an emergency and evacuation plan include:

-Do you know your risks when it comes to intentional or natural disasters?

-Do you have an emergency kit for yourself and your animals?

-Do you know neighbors and organizations who can help you?

Your emergency and evacuation plan should include:

-Identification of travel routes least likely to be blocked by flood, fire or other disaster

-List of primary and secondary holding areas for animals

-Plans for first responder access

-Ensure all vehicles and trailers are in working condition (keep gas tank at least half full)

-Ensure halters, leashes, ropes, etc are accessible for each animal

-Have phone numbers for neighbors and volunteer groups

-Documentation (proof of ownership, brand registration, current photos, veterinary contact info, insurance contacts and proof of insurance)

-First aid kits for animals and people

Your Pet's Kit—Info from FEMA

Like your own emergency kit, the one you create for your pet should include at least three days of food, water and medications. Other items to help your pet may include:

First aid kit. Talk to your veterinarian about what should be included. Most pet kits have cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea and tick prevention, latex gloves, rubbing alcohol and saline solution. A pet first aid book also is helpful.

Identification, harness or leash. Your dog or cat should wear a collar with an ID and rabies tags at all times. Keep a backup set in your pet's emergency kit. Include important documents like registration, adoption, vaccination, or important medical records. Consider micro chipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.

A picture of you and your pet together. A picture will help identify your pet and document ownership should you become separated.

Crate or carrier. Have a sturdy, safe, comfortable crate or carrier to transport your pet.

Familiar items. Include your pet's favorite toys, treats or bedding.

Sanitation. Have supplies to provide for your pet's sanitation needs such as litter and litter box, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach for disinfecting (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach).

More info from FEMA

The veterinary hospital can be reached at the following numbers:

Small Animal Clinic (530)-752-1393

Large Animal Clinic (530)-752-0290


Tracey Stevens, Deputy Director of Program Development & Training for WIFSS, contributed to this article.


Trina Wood

Communications Officer