You know how to bug out and get your family to safety, but have you considered what to do with your pets when disaster strikes? If you’ve made a plan, you need to include your pets in your plan. Leaving your pets to face the disaster is an option but hopefully you won’t have to make that decision. The problem is that bugging out with pets adds a level of complexity you may not have encountered before.
Bugging Out with Animals
Having lived in the Rocky Mountains and have experienced more than ten wildfires close enough to cause serious concern, of which two put me on standby evacuation and one forced me into an evacuation, I know what it’s like to bug out with a large number of animals.
First, have all your pets wear collars with ID tags on them. The ID tags should have your cell phone number on them and an emergency contact in case your pet gets lost while your evacuating. This simple step can be the difference between finding your pet and having your pet lost for good. Be sure to have a recent photo of your pet, his veterinary and vaccination records, and anything else you might need to help locate him if he gets lost.
If you have to bug out with your pets, it’s important to have a safe bug out location that accepts pets. Don’t assume that shelters nearby will allow you and your animals. Many shelters, including Red Cross Shelters, do not. Even relying on family members may be disappointing. You may not be welcomed with your animals there, or your family members may be caught in the same disaster. When you’re going through the disaster isn’t a good time to find out your family won’t take you. I discovered this the hard way and lucked out because we had friends willing to take us at their ranch. Find out now and get promises that you and your pets have a safe place.
Don’t depend on one place. Depending on how large the disaster is, the places you intended to stay may be dangerous as well. This is why planning different bug out locations is vitally important. Try finding places to stay 10 miles, 25 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles, or more from your home in case you do have to evacuate farther than you expected. That may be friends’ or relatives’ homes, your own bunker, or even a hotel. Just be sure that the place you stay allows pets.
Map out all possible routes. Your primary escape route may be cut off from traffic, the disaster, or some other reason. Always have backups.
Lastly, plan on more time to get your pets out than you expected. This is true if you have large animals or a larger number of pets. It took us about 30 minutes to get all the animals loaded during the wildfire when we thought it would only take ten minutes. Don’t wait for emergency personnel to bang on your door and tell you to leave. We had agreed to bug-out if the fire crossed the river about three miles away. After that, it would roar up our canyon. So, we bugged out early and got out before the traffic got bad.
Pets’ Bug-Out Bags
- Have an animal first-aid kit on hand. Talk with your veterinarian and have him or her recommend what supplies to take in your pets’ emergency first-aid kit.
- Enough food for a minimum of three days per animal. I know the ASPCA recommends three to seven days, but my experience is that you should have more than enough food on hand in case you get stuck somewhere without a way to get food.
- Travel crates for each pet. You need a way to constrain your pet wherever you stay.
- Leashes and collars.
- Bowls for water and food.
- Enough water for a week or more.
- Bags and paper towels to clean up after your pet.
- For cats: litter trays and litter. Litter scoop.
- Treats, toys, or something that will help keep the pet calm.
Large Animal/Multiple Animal Bug Outs
With large animals such as cattle, sheep, horses, and goats, or large number of pets such as sled dogs or dog kennels, you’ll be faced with more difficult logistics. You’ll need a bug-out place where your animals can get enough food, because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to carry all the food they need.
Like pets, your livestock need to have tags on them for identification. You’ll also need enough trailers to carry your animals away from the disaster. If necessary, enlist the help of others who know how to drive a truck that can carry a trailer away.