British Columbia

Animal rescue expert shares emergency preparedness tips for pet owners

An emergency kit is important to have during wildfire season, but most pet owners don’t have a plan for their cats and dogs according to an animal rescue expert.

Keep a kit for your pet, get them used to staying at other homes and teach them to drink from the toilet

Some pet owners had the chance to grab their animals before they left home during the 2017 wildfire season. These two dogs rode in the back of a pickup truck in central B.C.'s Williams Lake. (Simon Hergott)

An emergency kit is important to have during wildfire season, but most pet owners don't have a plan for their cats and dogs, according to an animal rescue expert.

Kelowna-based Brad Pattison runs an animal rescue team and was on the ground in B.C during last year's wildfire season. He also traveled to New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to Haiti after a devastating 2010 earthquake and to Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria tore through the island to save all kinds of animals from gerbils and hamsters to horses and mules.

He said the biggest issue pets face is displacement when an emergency situation arises. To prepare for that he recommends sending dogs and cats on regular "sleepovers" at friends or family's homes.

"The reason this is so important ... is when you have an emergency like this, the displacement of that animal, that stress, will no longer be," Pattison told Radio West's Sarah Penton.

"If you have your dog … or cat in routine then that is one of the worst things because once you break routine the stress levels escalate exponentially in an animal."

In an evacuation where owners are able to take pets with them, Pattison said he follows a "rule of three" when packing an emergency kit for pets.

His list includes:

  • A list of three veterinarians
  • A minimum of three days' worth of meals and water
  • Contact information for three friends
  • Three special items familiar to the pet (blanket, bowl, favourite toy, etc)
  • Collar, leash and tag

In situations where owners must leave their pets behind, or aren't able to go back to their home, Pattison has a creative solution: teach your pet how to drink from the toilet bowl.

"If your dog or cat cannot access water and you cannot get back to your home then you have a much higher risk of your pet perishing because they can't get to water," he said.

He also recommends leaving a note on the door listing the name, breed, age, medical information, and animal's tendencies — like "guarding the house" — for first responders when they arrive at the evacuated area.

Pattison said he's dealt with rescues of all kinds and in many situations he has noticed a lack of preparedness.

"It's not just about having extra food and having bottled water for your dog ... it's about the much bigger picture for being prepared."

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

With files from Radio West

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