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A Chihuahua waits adoption at a Los Angeles Department of Animal Services shelter on December 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
You might have your extra stash of food, water and medicine in case of emergency, but what about Fido and Fluffy? After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of pets were left to fend for themselves or they were shipped to animal shelters several states away. Many were never reunited with their owners and hundreds died in the floods.
Closer to home, during the Oakland Hills fires, dozens of animals were also missing after fleeing for their lives from the flames. Owners desperate to find their pets posted snapshots on bulletin boards but shelter staffers say the animals who were microchipped and those whose tags stayed on were the mostly likely to see their families again.
In the Bay Area, with warnings that we are due for "The Big One," animal experts say pet owners should create an emergency plan and disaster kit for their pets. Palo Alto Animal Services superintendent Staci Stadler says once the big earthquake hits, it's too late.
"If there's an earthquake or large-scale disaster, we might be on our own for 3-7 days," Stadler said. She says pet owners should work out a buddy system with a neighbor or friend to take care of each other's pets in case the other is unable to return home.
Stadler says for the pet kit, find a waterproof container and pack enough food, water and medicines for a week. Blankets, bowls and leashes should also be in the kit, along with laminated copies of vaccination records and photos of you and your pet. Also include "a pet first aid kit because in a disaster, you can tend to minor injuries yourself.
Stadler says if you have a pocket pet, like a hamster or rabbit, make sure you have a carrier for safe transport. For exotic pets like reptiles, or fish, she says you might want to invest in a generator to power their aquariums until you can move them to a safer location.
The federal recommendations for pet disaster kits and how to plan can be found on the government's Ready America site.