I've had to evacuate with my own dogs from hurricanes and wildfires on a few occasions. Here are some tips on making a pet bug-out bag.
What Is a Bug-Out Bag?
Survivalists call an emergency backpack with enough gear, food, water, etc. to survive for 72 hours a "bug-out bag." If you are forced to flee from your home in a hurry due to a disaster such as an earthquake, a bug-out bag can help you survive or live more comfortably wherever you end up, even if you must survive on your own for several days without assistance.
You can find many articles about how to make a bug-out bag for humans to use when evacuating, but the subject of a bug-out bag for pets is not well covered. As someone who has both helped with hurricane relief and been forced to evacuate with pets, I wanted to share some ideas for making an evacuation kit for pets.
If you care about your dog, cat, etc., you should think about making an evacuation kit for them as well as yourself. Note that not all emergency shelters for humans accept pets. Try to find out as early as possible which shelters accept pets in a disaster scenario or to whom you can give your pet for temporary care until you can be reunited. Your local ASPCA or veterinarian may be able to help you in such a situation, but don't count on them to help during a disaster, as they may be busy dealing with other issues.
A bug-out bag can be made from an old backpack, suitcase, or any other tough container. Preferably, your pet bug-out bag should be waterproof. If it's not, each item inside of it should be placed inside a waterproof container or bag. Since you'll most likely be carrying your own bug-out bag as well, your pet's should be lightweight and easy to hold onto.
What to Put in an Emergency Survival Kit for a Pet
The things you need to put in a bug-out bag for an animal are much the same as the things you would put in your own. Your pet will need basics, such as food, water, shelter, medicine, etc.
You should keep at least three days worth of food in your pet's bug-out bag. A mix of canned and dry food is preferable in case the dry food becomes spoiled by moisture. It is best to pack the same food that your pet eats daily so as not to cause digestive problems. Seal dry food inside locking plastic containers such as Tupperware and then place the containers inside sealed plastic bags for waterproofing. You'll need to replenish the food in your pet bug-out bag every few months since canned food will only last about a year, and dry pet food will last about four months.
Neither you or your pet can survive without clean water. Some water purification tablets may be dangerous to animals. That's why it's a good idea to both take your own clean water along as well as a water purifier. There are many kinds of water purifiers for your available, so be sure to choose one that has a high-volume output, such as the MSR HyperFlow, which is available at sporting-goods stores like REI.
In the event of an evacuation, you may not be able to access veterinary care for your pet. Ask your vet if they can give you several tablets of your pet's medication in separate, labeled containers. Vets often have free samples of things such as heart-worm medication, which they may be able to give you if you explain what you need them for.
Even if your pet doesn't have fleas or ticks, it's a good idea to keep a bottle of flea and tick shampoo in your pet evacuation bag in case your pet picks them up as you evacuate or relocate to a shelter. A grooming comb or brush is also a good idea for a pet evacuation kit.
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It's a good idea to carry a small tarp or sheet of plastic in your pet evacuation kit in case you need to set up an improvised shelter outside for them. Some parachute cord and a cheap plastic tarp measuring about eight by twelve feet could be used to make a temporary shelter for your pet when strung between two objects and staked to the ground.
If you are forced to evacuate, you may need to seek veterinary care for your pet in an unfamiliar location. Keep a copy of your pet's vaccination records, your veterinarian's name and phone number, a list of the medications your pet takes, etc. in your pet's bug-out bag.
Make sure your pet's rabies tag is affixed to their collar along with any other required tags. Your pet should have a collar with their name, your name, and your cell phone number embroidered into the collar itself, along with metal ID tags attached with a secure clasp. Having your pet "chipped" with an RFID implant is a must these days.
If you and your pet are separated, this tiny chip, which is implanted under the pet's skin, can be read by most animal shelters with a hand-held wand. Your name and address will be displayed, so it is vital that you update your contact information any time it changes.
Collars, Leashes, Cages, and Other Supplies
Be sure to put an extra leash and collar in your pet's bug-out bag. If you have a very small pet, you might want to include a small, foldaway cage in the evacuation bag. Since you don't know where you might end up, some kind of bedding, such as a small blanket, is a good idea so that your best friend doesn't have to sleep on a hard shelter floor.
In addition to a collar with your dog's name and your phone number embroidered on it, a good thing to have is a lighted LED collar. You never know what kind of conditions you may be evacuating in, and having a lighted collar ready to go can help you and your pet be seen in dark, dangerous conditions.
Important Considerations for Your Pet's Evacuation Kit
Make sure that your name as well as that of your pet is attached to your pet's bugout bag, so that it can be returned to you, or so that animal shelter workers can match the kit's food, etc. to the animal. A laminated sheet of paper listing the needs and characteristics of you pet is also a very good idea for a pet evacuation kit. Type up a brief summary of you pet's requirements, behavior aspects and place this in your pet evacuation kit where anyone who uses the kit can see it. Include on the list things such as "aggressive toward cats", requires heart medication daily", amount of dose, amount of food usually fed, etc.
If you have any additional thoughts on what items may be useful in an evacuation kit for pets, please leave your suggestions in the comments section below.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Nolen Hart