Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flood frenzy

It makes sense to prepare pet essentials in case you have to get out of your home in a hurry

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Now might be the time to get your pets high. This isn't a suggestion that you sprinkle marijuana into your exotic fish aquarium and wait for them to get mellow. Instead, you might have to move your pet as part of a flood-preparedness plan.

While floods are never welcome, we're somewhat lucky. Most have arrived with a bit of warning, allowing time to gather vital household items, pictures, personal documents and necessities you'll want should your family be displaced. As we consider what's important to take along, remember also the needs of your pets.

Since floods seem to be an annual issue, a ready-to-go knapsack full of necessities makes a lot of sense. Much like sewing kits or tackle boxes that store everything we need for hobbies, the pet disaster kit should include basic must-haves for your furry family member.

The most important item is a crate, duffle bag or box to contain your cat or fidgety dog. While we may be able to understand the need to move to a safer location, reason rarely works on pets. Manitoba Veterinarian Medical Association general manager and communication director Andrea Lear explains that pets react based "on a flight or fight instinct." In an emergency, there is no room for either reaction.

Naturally, the next thing required in an emergency kit is a box designated to hold vital pet-related items. A plastic one with a lid works well. It should be large enough to stash bedding, kitty litter, a litter box, chew toys, water, leash, medication, records, water and food.

If you plan on using the box as your general pet emergency kit, Lear recommends that you use canned food because it lasts longer (without the smell of kibble). But don't forget the can opener. It's never fun to desperately search for a creative way to open cat food (if you've camped, you know how well a rock and a butter knife opens a can ... and your flesh).

If there's a chance you'll be part of a flood evacuation, it's especially important to assemble the kit. Include a current photo of your pet. Lear recommends you jot down tattoo and microchip information. They do little good if you've forgotten to inform the veterinarian that your contact information has changed.

Collars should have licences and medical tags attached. Wearable identification tubes can also be purchased cheaply. Write important information such as your pet's medical information and emergency contact number.

For safekeeping, you might want to swap copies of pet information, pictures and irreplaceable documents with a family member. A small portable flash drive with your digital copies of photos, medical information and pet details also comes in handy.

Ideally, it's a good idea to place your pets with trusted friends or family ahead of evacuation orders. Be sure to give them details about your pet's habits and medical needs.

For some, this option isn't possible. As there is a limited number of pet-friendly hotels, it's important to make arrangements ahead of time. Kennels, local pet rescues and even veterinarians may be an option. Shots should be up to date. Some facilities may not take pets that aren't vaccinated.

For those of you with animals that can't be moved, the rule of thumb is to try and keep them on the higher levels of the home. Naturally, you'll have to leave food, litter or water for at least a week. Their presence in your home should be noted on your front gate and points of entry. Notify the Animal Care Line to let them know about your situation. Also, it's important that you register your animals with the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Lear advises that when the flood emergency is over, issues with your pets remain. Once you return home, there may be downed electrical lines or sharp items left exposed on your property. Pets could easily be injured if they're left to roam. Household and outdoor scents change after a flood. Being scent-driven creatures, this change could disorient them. They could easily get lost. Until your animal returns to acting normally -- and all dangers are removed -- it should remain in the home or be taken out on a leash.

Also, Lear notes that "strange animals can relocate to your property." Cleaning up after a disaster is hard enough. You don't need to add the task of bathing a cock-a-poo that fell victim to a skunk bomb.

Floods may not be the only disaster that can occur. Unlike fast-rising waters, however, other emergencies may offer little warning. Pet kits should be readied and easily accessible.

Take the time to plan. You might prevent Manitoba's emergency from being your family's pet disaster.

char.adam@mts.net twitter.com/charspetpage

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2011 D5

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