The next time you take your dog or cat to the vet, include disaster preparedness in the discussion with your veterinarian. Or just make a call now.
At SPCA International, we know how important to know in advance of a disaster what your veterinary hospital is prepared to do in a crisis. The first question should be: if they are not directly impacted, do they anticipate being open to provide emergency care for injured animals? A good indication of this will be whether they have a back-up generator or not. In most disasters, electricity will not be on, so without some alternate source of power, a veterinary hospital will be limited in what they can do. If your veterinarian does not have a disaster plan, then you will need to do some research in your community to find an alternate veterinary hospital that is prepared to function during a disaster. Having this information prior to a disaster occurring could increase the chances of an injured animal getting care in time and surviving.
It is also a good idea to have an emergency kit for your animals. Pre-packaged kits can be purchased at pet or feed stores. There are also some excellent first aid books available that can help you care for your companion animal until you are able to get them to a veterinary hospital. These are items you should have, whether you are preparing for a potential disaster or not.
The second topic of discussion with your veterinarian should be who you designate to act on your behalf should one of your companion animals be injured during a disaster and you are not available to authorize treatment. Most veterinarians have a form you can complete, listing the authorized person or persons, along with their contact information. If they do not have a form, type a simple letter listing your animals and then explain who the alternate person is, their contact information and what they are authorized to do. Be sure you sign the letter. Not having this information on file could delay getting an animal treatment. Not only is this information good to have on file for disasters, but it can also be used when you are on vacation or should something unexpected happen to you, leaving you unavailable to care for your animal in an emergency. Remember to update this information should anything change.