Disaster planning will save lives

Published 8:11 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Almost two years after the United States witnessed its most devastating hurricane season ever, emergency management officials and storm-weary residents of the Gulf Coast are getting ready to deal with the 2007 hurricane season. Emergencies come in many forms, however, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. No matter where you live, the unexpected can occur.
The 2005 hurricane season showed how great the human-animal bond is, and brought home the vital importance of including pets and service animals in emergency and evacuation plans around the country. It is equally important, however, for pet parents to have emergency plans in place so that their pets can be kept safe.
It’s crucial to make plans ahead of time to ensure your pets’ safety in times of emergency. Get a Rescue Alert Sticker to post at your home. This sticker is visible to rescue workers and includes vital information about your pets and veterinarian.
Keep emergency supplies and traveling kits handy for your pets and make sure everyone in the family knows where they are. Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations, keep a collar with identification on your pet, and have a leash on hand at all times.
Maria Diamond, SPCA director stresses one point.
“We only have one shelter in Pearl River County. We do not have room for people to bring their pets here to the shelter. We urge everyone to take their pets with them.
“We’ve been meeting with Bobby Strahan at Emergency Preparedness because we’re are required by law to make arrangements for pets. We just didn’t have time to make finalized plans by this hurricane season,” she said. “The best and safest thing for a pet is to take it with you when you evacuate.”
The Humane Society of South Mississippi will be offering Microchips for a reduced fee of $10 when purchased in conjunction with a $15 spay or neuter surgery. Microchips can be purchased separately for only $20. If your dog or cat is lost for any reason, any animal hospital, shelter, or humane society can use a microchip reader to read the unique ID number contained on the chip. A quick phone call to the microchip company will help you get your pet home safe.
Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics, and friends and relatives out of harm’s way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster. Harrison County has one pet-friendly shelter located at Harrison Central High School. Coast Transit will provide transport for one pet per person to this shelter within 12 hours of the hurricane’s arrival. This transportation option is very limited should be used only as a last resort. To learn more about Coast Transit’s evacuation criteria and registration, call 288-896-8080.
Pets are part of the family, and it’s imperative that they be included in all family disaster plans. Remember, they’re counting on you. For more information on hurricane preparedness for your pet, call Ellen Buntyn at 228-863-4394 ext. 127.

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