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In Disaster Scenarios, What's the Plan for Pets? 

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So her organization and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management are pushing a new concept: pet preparedness. The effort includes emergency kits with evacuation plans for pets.

Your survival might even depend on it. Sometimes the lack of a pet evacuation plan makes matters worse, say Denise Deisler, chief operating officer of the Richmond SPCA. During Katrina, she says, "there were people who would not leave or ignored the evacuation order out of concern for their pets."

The pet crisis that ensued in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and to a lesser extent Gaston in Richmond, has served as something of a wake-up call, says Ben Johnson, the city's coordinator of emergency management. Richmond sent animal control officers to the Gulf Coast after Katrina for educational purposes.

In the effort here, pet owners are given tips and checklists for everything their pets need to survive disasters or even emergencies in the home, such as tags with the owner's contact information, extra food (preferably canned) and possible shelters.

"There are emergency stickers that you can place on your window," Deisler says. "If there is a fire in your home, alert the emergency personnel that there are pets in the home, how many, what type and where they might find them."

People need to be "comfortable and confident about evacuating with their pets," Deisler says.

Michael Cline, the state coordinator of Virginia's Department of Emergency Management, encourages people to consider their own home situations and potential risks when protecting their pets. If there's a fire, for example, it never hurts to have pet fire drills. If there's a flood, can your pets get to higher ground?

"What we're trying to do is get people to make plans now to deal with emergencies or disasters and how to handle them," Cline says. S



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