2007-07-18 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

Hurricane season is here, and will peak around September 10th. "Leave No Pet Behind" has become post- Katrina's mantra for animal caretakers. "If conditions are not safe for you, they are not safe for your pets", warns the Pet Safe Coalition, Inc.. This official LI Animal Response Team reminds owners to include all their pets in any disaster and evacuation plan. Many of the Katrina tragedies for pets as well as people could have been avoided if residents were allowed to find temporary shelter with their animals.

Pet Safe, founded in 1999 by Nancy Lynch of Locust Valley, is Nassau County's educational cooperative effort of local groups and government working together to assist people and their pets during times of disaster. The group even deployed volunteers during the Nor'easter last April. Although Suffolk SPCA is coordinating Suffolk hurricane preparedness, Pet Safe's expertise is beneficial to all Long Islanders.

We must be prepared in advance. Our pets are completely dependent on us. They cannot fend for themselves. You CAN'T leave home without them. In fact, it's illegal. With 620,000 dogs and cats in Nassau alone, it's naive to think that everyone can squeeze into public "pet friendly" refuges. Red Cross evacuation shelters do not accept pets.

The 23-Skidoo Plan: We need to pre-map an escape route and "buddy up" with friends and relatives now to have safe havens ready for our animal companions, if and when emergency evacuation becomes necessary. Pets will be more relaxed in a familiar environment such as a relative's home or a boarding kennel. It's best to have a sturdy crate or cage for each animal so Fido and Fluffy are more welcome and safe during stressful times. The carrier should be big enough for the pet to be able to stand up and turn around. Once you know your escape route, it might be helpful to call ahead to hotel/motels to check pet guest policies or whether they will bend rules under extreme circumstances.

The Kit: Now (preferably as soon as you read this) is the time to assemble a Pet Disaster Kit. In an airtight, waterproof container, like a plastic tackle box or large Rubber Maid, include: at least 3-5 days' worth of pet food, veterinary/ license/ownership records and medications (including heartworm and flea control), collars and leashes with extra ID tags, bowls, litter/pans, brushes, first aid kits, toys, photos of you and your pets as proof of ownership, can openers, paper towels, plastic bags, and bleach as a disinfectant or to purify water. Pet Safe (www.petscoalition.org) provides a more complete list. Catalog suppliers like PetEdge and Today's Dog offer practical, compact products including soft muzzles and collapsible nylon bowls.

The ID: Your pet should always be wearing a properly fitting collar with up-to-date ID and rabies tags. Microchips are a permanent form of identification. Most vets will insert chips. A one time fee to the recovery company gives your pet life time registration. I enter my dogs' microchip number on their license renewals. Be certain your pet's chip info is current. Often pet store pups have chips that were never transferred to the purchaser's name.

Pet Safe, with many prestigious partners like the ASPCA and LI Veterinary Medical Association, is working diligently to spread the word about the importance of emergency pet planning. By reaching out to Nassau municipalities and neighborhoods, Pet Safe has coordinated a network of temporary facilities to house pets when owners' evacuation plans fall through. If called upon by the county, the group's professional animal handlers who work for the Coalition member organizations will care for these animal evacuees. Non-profit Pet Safe (516-676-0808) needs volunteers, donations, and office space to expand their relief efforts.

The Coalition also invites experts to speak to the public. Last week, Stacy Wolf, legislative attorney for the ASPCA, discussed the complex legal responsibilities of pet owners in emergencies. She wrote the new Louisiana disaster law which is much more specific and comprehensive than the NYS plan. The scope of the Gulf Coast catastrophe has clarified every aspect of the pet problem there.

I still get nightmares about my lack of preparedness when Gloria, at most a Category 2, slammed us in 1985. With little warning the sirens sounded to evacuate Babylon south of Montauk. I threw Juliet and Alfie, my 2 Afghans, into my "exploding" Pinto and headed for my parents' in N. Massapequa. I've got a more reliable car now, but need a much more reliable plan. What about you?

Typo Corrections from last week's heartworm column: The feline heartworm positive statistic in the N.Carolina study is more frightening- 28% of the strictly indoor cats had the disease; not 2 percent as printed. The American Heartworm Society website is: p www.heartwormsociety.org.

For Adoption: "Potter Mania" has invaded Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677- 5784) Miller Pl. Syosset. From the shelter's vast "Order of the Felines" comes "Hermione" #550. This literate, young calico would make a great companion. "Penny" #478 is a talented Cattle Dog mix. She is so shy in the cage but shines outside. The photo shows Penny doing a "high five". Check out the shelter's Petfinder site for more adoptables like "Sparkler" #532 a Golden/Shepherd mix.

Cats: "Snuggles" #499- 1 yr. Russian blue type; a semi-longhaired white beauty #603; lots of adorable kittens.

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