By Dave Roberts
One forecaster has said we should prepare ourselves for the “Godzilla” of El Niño winters. Many others say we can expect the most severe weather that we have experienced since the 1950s. Across the County of San Diego, emergency responders are preparing for flooding, mud slides and debris flows.
We are asking residents to prepare themselves. And this week, officials from the county’s Department of Animal Services and Office of Emergency Services joined me in urging residents to include pets in their disaster plans.
While preparing for the worst, remember that pets might need extra attention during a storm even if you are sheltered safely at home.
Wind, thunder and rain can be terrifying for dogs. If they’re scared, comfort them with treats and hugs. Don’t act worried as that will feed the dog’s fear.
If you know a storm is coming, get the dog outside to exercise and to relieve himself or herself to avoid nervous accidents.
Dogs are denning animals, so consider building a makeshift “storm shelter” inside a room or a walk-in closet. Use a kennel or crate that’s big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around inside of and drape a blanket over three sides of the shelter to make it dark and cave-like.
Turn on music or the TV to mask the sound of thunder and wind. If your dog has high anxiety or panics when a storm hits, talk to your veterinarian about anxiety medications.
What if flooding or weather-related damage forces you to evacuate your home with your pets?
“Make sure that you have supplies ready for them,” says Lt. Kalani Hudson, supervising animal control officer.
Those supplies should include: food and bowls; a means of confinement such as a leash or a harness or a crate; one week’s supply of medication; veterinary records and comfort items such as a favorite toy or blanket.
“And by all means,” Lt. Hudson says, “pets need some sort of identification. That means licensing dogs and having your pet microchipped.”
That’s all good, but in order to help your pet you first must help yourself, says Stephen Rea, assistant director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services.
“You need to make a plan and you need to build a kit,” he says. “And when it comes to your pets — plan, prepare and practice.”
Instructions for building “go-kits” and making emergency plans are posted right on the Emergency Services’ Web site: www.readysandiego.org. Visit the site to register your cell phone for emergency alerts and to load a free app for your mobile device.
Then go to the Animal Services Web site – www.sddac.com – for detailed instructions on building a go-kit for your pets.
Thank you for keeping your pets safe!
Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.