September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, which focuses on getting ready for hurricane season in the southeast and general disaster prep throughout.
But in news to me, June is National Pet Disaster Preparedness Month.
This month is to focus on our furry friends and what you can do to prepare them (and us) for disasters of various types. This includes getting your RV ready for a disaster.
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Prepping Your RV for Your Pet Disaster
What can you do to make sure that your RV is ready for your pet in case of any number of disasters?
I always try to keep my RV as close to ready to go as possible. When it comes to preparing for disasters for my dog, that means certain things are always in the RV:
- Recent Picture: In case your dog gets loose during the commotion of a disaster, you’ll want a recent picture to be able to show rescuers or searchers so they know what to look for. Keep some printed copies, not just electronic ones so you can hand them out, if necessary.
- Dog Crate: he’s comfortable in his dog crate, so even if I need to quickly evacuate, he’s secure and won’t be in the way. I also don’t have to worry about him getting lose or running away in the commotion.
- Dry Dog Food: Burdell has always eaten dry dog food. One big advantage is that I can keep an airtight container of food in the RV so that if we need to leave in a hurry, he has some food. Remember, your dogs are likely to pick up on any stress you have. Don’t make it worse by trying to immediately change his food during an evacuation.
- Leashes: There are two leashes that stay in the RV, a solar powered LED light up 6 foot leash and a longer 10 foot leash. If I have to leave the house in a hurry, there’s a leash on hand in the RV.
- Water and Food Bowls: Yes, I keep a set of water and food bowls in the RV just for the dog. I don’t have to worry about grabbing them on the way out the door while I’m in a hurry.
- Dog Shampoo: While you are more likely to need the dog shampoo because they get into something on a hike, it’s handy to keep some on hand as part of your disaster preparedness plan.
- Vet Records: For multiple purposes, including disaster preparedness, I keep a copy of the latest shot records in the RV. Also good in case you need to visit a vet while on the road. Some campgrounds and dog parks also want proof of up to date shots. Keep them on hand in case they are needed.
- Treats and Chew Toys: Yes, the dog has his own tub of toys and what not in the RV. When the anxiety hits, you don’t want them tearing apart your couch. Give them something that they can chew on, like a nice Nyla dog bone.
I typically don’t keep the pet preventative (flea, tick, heartworm) medicines in the RV because those can be picked up later and if they are late a few days, it won’t be the end of the world.
However, if your pets have medicine that they need, you’ll probably want to keep some ready to go in an emergency. In any case, be sure that you include a list of medicines, including dosages, in your vet records in the RV, just in case you need to get some in a hurry.
Summer Time Prep
As soon as winter is over and thus the threat of freezing pipes, I de-winterize the RV and then keep the fresh water tanks full.
In case of an evacuation, that means that both the dog and I have fresh water necessary for the first few days. It also means that I won’t have to be relying on campground water which we all know can be spotty in the best of times. In addition, having full tanks gives you more options for boondocking and not relying on campgrounds. During hurricane or wildfire evacuations, the campgrounds outside the evacuation zone may fill up quickly.
A full water tank is also beneficial in cases where you don’t need to evacuate. It’s not unusual for a fresh water tank to be useful in non-emergency situations. If your neighborhood water pipes are busted and you don’t have water or are under a boil water advisory, you’ll have a source of fresh, clean water for both your dog and your family.
See Also: Must Have RV Safety Gear
And as much as we love our dogs, please do not ever enter a burning house or RV to save your dog! Nor should you delay your exit to save your pets.
In many cases, your pet’s animal instinct to survive will kick in. They are often able to escape, even if you don’t realize that they have already gotten out.
You can also let first responders and firefighters know that your pets are trapped inside. Make sure to give them the pet’s name and description, as well as their likely location. The firefighters will often prioritize their rescue while fighting the fire.
Small animals and pets can often be quite sensitive to smoke. Make sure to closely monitor your pets after exposure to fire (even campground fires) and seek help from a vet if they show any signs of difficulty breathing.
Whether a small local disaster zone, like in the case of a house fire or a tornado, or a larger disaster zone, such as the case in a hurricane or wildfire, it is important to keep your pet’s safety in mind.
As soon as possible, it is often advisable to get them out of the area. Send them to a relative’s or friend’s home if possible.
During recovery, the pets are likely to be “in the way” of your cleanup efforts.
Various scenarios are also likely to present problems for pets – falling limbs and trees present a danger to both you and your pet while you are out walking them to do their business. Downed electrical wires present a danger that your pets are not likely to recognize until it is too late. Broken glass from windows or bottles can injure their paws.
Many dogs, particularly the younger ones, are not going to deal well with being cooped up for an extended period of time. They will need their walks/runs and if you are doing clean-up, you won’t have time for this. Nor will the physical environment around you be suitable for long walks or off-leash runs.
Electricity and Temperature Issues
Many disaster zones have problems with electricity and thus temperature control. If a disaster hits during the winter, it can be too cold. In the summer, heat can become an issue for many pets. Older pets are often more sensitive to extreme temperatures that always seem to follow a disaster.
RVs in Disaster Zones
If you aren’t able to send your pets away, or until you are able to do so, the RV does have its advantages.
If you camp or travel often with your pets in the RV, the RV will feel like home and can lessen the anxiety around the disaster. This can reduce the appearance of anxiety related behaviors like chewing furniture that may happen if your pet is locked in a hotel room rather than your RV.
If your RV is suitably equipped with a generator, you can also provide temporary temperature control, whether heat or air conditioning, as necessary. (Remember to keep your gas tank full when you put it in storage for just this reason)
Do remember however, that the smaller space may be an issue for your dogs or cats, especially when the humans all pile in as well. They aren’t going to be able to stretch their legs as much as they could in your home.
Prolonged Disaster Zones
In a post-hurricane or flooding disaster zone, there are going to be special threats for pets.
Standing water leads to more mosquitoes and thus mosquito-borne diseases.
See Also: Mosquito Repellent for Your RV Gear
You’ll also have more problems obtaining fresh water for both you and your pets. And gasoline to run the generators.
Under the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, local and state governments do have to plan for evacuating pets. Some states have added to this with laws of their own. This can include allowing your pets to stay in shelters and hotels, but is not necessarily so.
However, pets must stay in kennels in most evacuation centers. So make sure that your dogs are crate trained. With all the other stress of an evacuation, you don’t want your pets to be stressed by their first time in a crate. You’ll probably also need proof of vaccinations, so again, it is wise to keep a copy in your pet’s “go bag” as well as somewhere easily accessible online. (Just don’t rely solely on either – water can damage paper copies and during an emergency, online access may be limited)
If you are in a disaster prone area (think southeast during Hurricane season or any area that is threatened by wildfires), it would be wise to determine which hotels (or hotel chains) are pet friendly and what restrictions they may have. Find hotels in the local area (for something like tornado disasters), something within 1 days drive, and something within 2 days drive. Don’t forget that during a mass evacuation, traffic will make travel slow going.
Being able to RV boondock sure makes evacuations easier on you and your pets.
See Also: Hurricane Matthew Evacuation Party
Finding Lost Pets
No matter the disaster, there is the chance that you will be separated from your beloved pet and will need to be reunited at some point.
It’s important that you take steps now to make sure that if someone else finds your pet, they will be able to contact you.
The first step will be their tags. Make sure that your pets have collars with tags and your current cellphone number.
The second step is to make sure they have a current microchip with up-to-date contact information. If is very common for pets to loose their collars during an emergency – they get stuck on a tree branch or the pets slide out of them trying to escape capture.
Finally, remember those pictures you printed out and put in the RV? You can take those to local vets offices, animal control facilities, and even police departments, to help them identify your pets for you. In a large scale emergency, many pets will end up at animal control. In smaller more local emergencies, local vets and police departments will often hold pets for a period of time before turning them over to animal control.
RVs and Pet Disaster Preparedness
I hope that you won’t need to use these tips, but that’s the nature of disaster preparedness. Use this month to make sure that you are prepared to take care of your pets in an emergency. Please don’t be that person that leaves your dogs chained up as you evacuate during an emergency. It really is heartbreaking to see those stories.
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