ELISE M. ATKINSON, CVT
If disaster strikes, will you be prepared? Will your veterinarian? When Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast in 2005, many pet owners were not prepared and were faced with the agonizing decision to leave their pets or put their own lives in jeopardy.
Hopefully you won’t have to face anything as catastrophic as Katrina, but disasters happen everywhere, and it is essential to prepare on behalf of your pets.
In addition to creating a home plan, talk to your veterinarian about what would happen if your pets were at the animal hospital during a disaster. Knowing your veterinarian’s plan will bring you peace of mind and also help you locate your pet quickly if the hospital is evacuated.
Every AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital must have a unique plan tailored to the kind of disaster it is most likely to face. Chris Duke, DVM, of Bienville Animal Medical Center in Ocean Springs, Miss., said that prior to going through the accreditation process, his clinic did not have an emergency response plan. An AAHA practice accreditation consultant helped him create one, so when Katrina hit his coastal community, the veterinary team at Duke’s hospital knew exactly what to do.
The clinic lost electricity, air conditioning, and phone service, so Duke followed the evacuation plan and moved his patients out of Ocean Springs to a clinic in Mobile, Ala. — one of three locations he had prearranged to accommodate his patients in case of evacuation.
What Is Your Veterinarian’s Plan?
Hurricane Katrina proved the strength of the human-animal bond. It also drove home the hard truth that disasters happen without warning, and poor preparation has dire and heartbreaking consequences.
Important questions to ask your veterinarian include:
- Under what circumstances will pets be evacuated?
- Where will evacuated pets be taken?
- How will I be notified of my pet’s condition and location?
- Is there a back-up power source for emergency lighting, temperature control, and essential medical equipment such as ventilators?
- If the clinic is closed because of an emergency, where can I get prescriptions filled?
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 3 Issue 5, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.