Include your pets in disaster preparedness plans
Last week, an earthquake struck Luzon and heavy rains caused flash floods again in Metro Manila.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has warned us of a tsunami along our coasts in the event of a stronger quake, and in a few more months, stronger typhoons will start raging over again. Officials say they have improved their disaster response for human victims. But what about for our pets?
“The government is not going to look after our pets. The burden is on the owners,” said May Angela Felix-Razon, emergency relief network responder for the International Fund for Animal Welfare and also its coordinator for Southeast Asia.
Last Saturday, Razon was one of the speakers at the disaster response for pets training sponsored by the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Quezon City. Joining her was lawyer Jennie Cerrada who gave insights, advice and a list of items to put in an emergency grab bag that must include our pets’ essential needs as well as ours.
Topping Cerrada’s to-do list is to put an ID on your dogs and cats—be they the cheap ones used to identify hospital patients, the fancy mall-engraved collar IDs, or get them microchipped at a vet’s clinic.
Cerrada also emphasized that dogs should have basic training enough for them to know their names and to come when called.
They should be comfortable in crates, where they would be kept and separated from humans. They should be easily handled on their collars and must be easily coaxed to escape to safety. They should be familiar with water, like swimming, and can be fitted with flotation devices—even homemade ones from recycled bottles or Styropor.
Aggressive dogs should get used to being muzzled to prevent dog bites. An emergency bag should also be ready to contain poop and garbage bags, paper towels, disinfectant, towel or blanket, pet toys, waterproofed copies of vaccination and medical records including a recent photo of you and your pets together with their feeding and medical instructions. Your name and your pets’ names and your contact numbers should be included.
This emergency bag must be placed near your home’s exit and a similar kit should be kept in your escape vehicles. The bag should also contain food, water and medication for a week along with portable water and food bowls, extra collars and leashes and a muzzle.
Leave no pet behind
Evacuate when told. “Get ready, get pets, and go!” Razon stressed. Pets should never be left behind. “If it is dangerous for you, it is also dangerous for them.”
Since most of the canine casualties in the recent floods were dogs who were chained or caged, they should never have been abandoned with no option to escape.
Cats maybe collected by their napes and shoved into their crates or bags. Feral cats, on many occasions, can manage by themselves.
Razon said that we must be familiar with the hazards our area is prone to by researching via the Internet on government sites like Department of Science and Technology’s Project Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards), Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) and the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority).
You should also be able to locate your city pounds, local veterinary clinics or pet boarding services, animal shelters like PAWS and, in case of livestock, the Bureau of Animal Industry’s regional field offices and animal welfare organizations’ provincial offices.
PAWS, Razon said, is trying to keep the pressure on the government to include animals like pets and livestock, in their national disaster plans.
Razon said the government is beginning to realize that using schools as evacuation sites is not ideal anymore since it delays students from returning to their normal schedules after a calamity.
She said the government’s decision to set up a multipurpose center for evacuation purposes is mandatory and a priority all over the country.
Animal groups like PAWS and IFAW are trying to get them to put up kennels. Unfortunately, the government is not keen on inviting animal welfare groups in these ongoing meetings.
Also, animal nongovernment organizations (NGOs) want themselves deputized to save trapped animals inside locked homes. As of now, only government agents are allowed by law to do this.
Razon said that a buddy system will also work by dividing the chores in an emergency among family members.
Placing a sticker on the door alerting rescuers to the number and kinds of pets kept in the house can also help in the rescue efforts. These stickers are available at PAWS.
If there is no need to evacuate, stay home and comfort your pets.
We should always be with them in both normal and rough times.
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