Tips to Keep your Dog Safe in an Emergency
I had the pleasure of listening to Debra Jo Chiapuzio, founder of the Emma Zen Foundation, speak about emergency preparedness for our pets. There are easy steps we can take now to protect our pets. Here is what I learned.
Consistently obeying three commands keeps your dog safe. Come, stay, and out. These commands are not only important in an emergency, but also in our daily lives. For example, if your dog’s ball is rolling toward a black widow spider, it would be important for your dog to come when called, even if it means abandoning the ball chase. Xuma and Orson supervise all kitchen activities in our house, so if I accidentally break a glass on the floor, they are likely close by. Depending on their location, I may need them to stay exactly where they are or I may need them to leave the kitchen. Either way, they need to do what I ask so they do not step in the glass. Hence, stay or out are as important as come. If there is a serious emergency, such as an evacuation during a fire, these three commands could save your dog’s life. Practice them often.
Secure your dog when riding in the car. Believe me I get it, there Is nothing like a smiling dog going on a joy ride with his head out the car window and breeze blowing his ears back. Sorry to spoil the fun, but letting your dog ride in the car untethered with his head out the window is not safe. Seatbelts safe lives – not just ours, but our pets. If you crate your dog in the car, be sure to tie down the crate. If your dog is not in a crate, she should be secured with a harness using the car’s seatbelt.
Teach your dogs to go to a safe place. Living in California, earthquakes are a probability. Debra Jo taught her dog to go under a table or under a bed, depending where they are in her house. She used high value treats, hot dogs, to teach her dog to always respond to her command. Debra Jo also recommends recording your smoke alarm and teaching your dog when they hear the alarm to go to a safe place, such as outside if they have a doggie door, or to the front door, thus, when firefighters arrive your dog will be right by the door waiting for it to open.
Have a plan. If you had to evacuate today, where would you go? Now is the time to figure that out. Do you have family or friends that would take you and your pets? Where are the pet friendly hotels? Can you familiarize your dog with traveling in the car or staying at a Pooch Hotel? The more you do now, the easier it will be should there be an emergency.
Keep a first aid kit for your pets. You should have a first aid kit for yourself and your pets. You should also have enough food and water for seven to fourteen days for each person and animal. If your pets are on medications, make sure you always have a two week supply. Keep photos of your pets with your family for proof of ownership. Keep extra leashes, collars and ids.
Get an emergency alert sticker. Affix an emergency alert sticker near your front and back door so that emergency personnel will know to look for your animals if you are not home.
Make sure your fire extinguisher and smoke alarms work. Debra Jo recommends actually using your fire extinguisher to make sure it works and so you know how it feels. As she wisely pointed out, you do not want to be fumbling around for scissors to cut the plastic tab when there is a fire. So I tried ours. Both were close to their expiration dates, so we purchased new ones and now I know how they work. Also, be sure your smoke alarm batteries are working.
Research whether your Fire Department has pet oxygen masks. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Emma Zen Foundation, 3,500 pet oxygen masks have been donated to fire departments. These masks are specifically designed for animals, as the human masks could only be placed next to the animal, which is not as effective. Ask your local fire department if they have pet oxygen masks, and if not, find out how you can make that happen.
Be calm, breathe, and think. If you panic, your dog will panic and that will make matters worse. Stop, take a moment to assess the situation and determine the best action.
The Emma Zen Foundation website has a lot of useful information, including what should be in a first aid kit and in a disaster preparedness kit. I am grateful for Debra Jo and all her efforts to keep our pets safe. I would love to hear what you do to keep your dogs safe.