Disaster Preparedness for Your Rabbit: Don’t Think It Won’t Happen To You
The key to being prepared for a disaster is being having a plan in place ahead of time. Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your rabbits quickly and safely. In an emergency, your rabbits will be even more dependent on you for their safety and well-being. Your family’s disaster plans must include your furry family members too. Know what to do to keep your beloved bunnies safe! Know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation and when to shelter in place.
Consider getting your rabbit microchipped, if they aren’t already. A microchip is implanted under the skin in an animal’s shoulder area and can be read by a scanner at most animal shelters. If you and your rabbit get separated, this can serve as a permanent form of identification and prove they belong to you. Remember to update your pet’s microchip information if you move, being sure to keep your address and phone number up-to-date and include contact information for an emergency contact outside of your immediate area.
There are some disasters that you can plan in advance for, such as hurricanes, potential flooding, or wildfire threats, and other emergencies where you may receive little to no warning, such as earthquakes and tornados. Some basic measures for early detection are:
- Keep a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to your local emergency station and monitor TV, radio, and follow mobile alert and mobile warnings about severe weather in your area.
- Download the FEMA app, receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.
- Sign up for Nixle alerts, which can keep you up-to-date with important information from your local public safety departments and schools. You can sign up to receive text messages or emails.
If you live in an area that is prone to certain natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, or floods, you should plan accordingly.
- Purchase a generator and know how to use it. Generators are a major purchase, but in the event that you lose electricity, you’ll be happy you made the investment. How many people flood the stores looking for a generator after the fact?
- Determine well in advance which rooms offer safe havens. These rooms should be clear or hazards such as windows, flying debris, etc.
- Choose easy-to-clean areas such as utility rooms, bathrooms, and basements as safe zones.
- Access to a supply of fresh water is particularly important. In areas that may lose electricity, fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have access to water during a power outage or other crises. Buy empty three or five gallon jugs and fill them before the storm hits.
- In the event of flooding, go to the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where your animals can take shelter.
- Keep a supply of batteries, candles, hand sanitizer, battery operated fans, and money (as ATMs and banks may not be open) on hand.
- Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been told to leave their pets behind. The smell of smoke or the sound of high winds or thunder may make your rabbit more fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier. Evacuating before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful.
Know a Safe Place to Take Your Pets
- If you have to evacuate your home during a disaster, the best way to protect your rabbits is to evacuate them too. If it’s not safe for you to stay behind, it’s not safe to leave rabbits behind either.
- Know which hotels and motels along your evacuation route will accept rabbits in an emergency. Call ahead for reservations if you know you may need to evacuate. Ask if no pet policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep your list handy so you are not trying to find a place to stay in a panic.
- Never assume that you will be allowed to bring your rabbit to an emergency shelter. Before a disaster hits, call your local office of emergency management to see if you will be allowed to evacuate with your rabbit and verify there will be shelters in your area that take people and their pets.
- Know which friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters, or veterinarians can care for your rabbits in an emergency. Ask people outside your immediate area if they would be able to shelter you and your rabbits—or just your rabbits—if necessary. If you have more than one rabbit, you may need to arrange to house them at separate locations. Although your rabbits may be more comfortable together, be prepared to house them separately. If you have a petsitter, they may be able to help. Discuss the possibility well in advance. Prepare a list with phone numbers.
- Include your rabbits in evacuation drills so they become used to entering and traveling in their carriers calmly.
Choose “Designated Caregivers”
- When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. They should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own—you may even swap responsibilities, depending upon who has accessibility. There may be times you can’t get home to take care of your pets. Icy roads may trap you at the office overnight, an accident may send you to the hospital—things happen.
- When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your rabbit in the event that something should happen to you. When selecting this “foster parent,” consider people who have met your rabbit and have successful cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so they understand the responsibility of caring for your rabbit.
Build a Kit
Include basic survival items and items to keep your rabbit happy and comfortable. Store your emergency kit close to an exit and be sure everyone in your home knows where it is. Start with this list:
- Food and Hay. If you live in a high risk area, have more food and hay on hand than usual. Consider that you may have disruptions in transportation after a disaster and not be able to receive supplies for a while. Keep your supply in an airtight, waterproof container. It may be a good idea to keep a stash of compressed hay cubes on hand that are far easier to store than large bags of hay. Also, keep a “grab and go” supply in your kit.
- Water. Set aside at least a week of water specifically for your pets. Store in a cool, dry place and replace every few months.
- Medicines and medical records. Have all your animals’ medications filled before the storm or if you are in a storm area, keep meds updated (applies to humans also). Check the expiration date of all medications regularly.
- First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls and vet wrap, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, latex gloves, metacam, simethicone, syringes, Critical Care, saline solution, towels, and/or flannel blankets. Including a first aid reference book is a good idea too. This is a basic list. Additional items to consider are antibiotics, coagulants, IV fluids, and flea treatments.
- Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier for every rabbit in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down. It’s a great idea to keep a stack of pillow cases in your rabbit area in case of a sudden evacuation where you may not have time to place your rabbit in a carrier.
- Litter pan, litter, and bowls. Keep a separate supply sufficient for all of your rabbits ready to grab and go.
- Pop-up pens. If possible, purchase enough pop-up pens to house all of your rabbits. A pop-up pen is a lot easier to grab and go than an x-pen!
- Sanitation and cleaning supplies. Newspapers, paper towels, trash bags, vinegar, and household chlorine bleach. If you live in an area where Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type-2 (RHDV2) is actively spreading, be sure you have disinfectant that is effective against the virus. See our list at rabbit.org/rhdv.
- Familiar items. Familiar items, such as your rabbit’s favorite treats, toys, and plenty of extra bedding can help reduce their stress.
- Photos of you with your rabbit. These photos can come in handy if you and your rabbit get separated and you need to make lost posters for them.
Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
- A number of easy-to-use stickers are available that let people know rabbits are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and it includes the number of rabbits in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers.
If You Are Involved in a Rescue Operation
- If you are rescuing, all intakes must be thoroughly documented with a photo of animal to aid in identification.
- Carry a whistle. This is for when you are rescuing and the animals are housed in a warehouse or even outdoors. The whistle is for when one gets loose. Hearing this everyone stops what they are doing and seeks the loose animal.
- If you are involved in a large rescue, it will be chaotic and probably out of your comfort zone. The animals cannot always be in the best situations but are cared for and better days will come. Many vets will be here from around the country and from out of country and one must be willing to work hand in hand with them even is surgery.
- Want to learn how to prepare for, manage and respond to emergencies and disasters? Federal regulations require all states to include pets and other animals in their disaster plans — so it’s a good bet that there’s a local DART or CART (Community Animal Response Team) taskforce in your area. These taskforces are set up locally in coordination with your nearby rescue organizations and are sometimes lead by your city’s animal care and control. Many of these organizations offer on-line and/or classroom training.
by Patricia Brant and June Booth, House Rabbit Society Educators
Additional Disaster Preparedness Resources
Disater Preparedness Slide Presentation
by Dawn Sailer, House Rabbit Society Board President
Print at home Alert Cards!
We have created an alert card and a care instructions card to help you be prepared.
You can download, print, fill out, fold in half, and keep the alert card in your wallet. In the event of an emergency, it tells the reader your name, the number of pets you have, their names and locations, and the back lists your emergency caregivers who can be contacted to care for your pets if you are unable to.
Many of us keep our rabbits and other pets on a regimented schedule and/or specific diet that might be confusing or overwhelming to someone stepping into our shoes to care for our pets.
You can download, print, fill out, fold in half, and give the care instructions card(s) to your designated caregiver(s). It’s also a good idea to keep a copy somewhere easily accessible in your residence, such as prominently displayed on the refrigerator, taped to your pet’s carrier, or other visible location. The care instructions card gives your designated caregiver(s) detailed instructions for the diet your pets need to be fed, as well as any necessary medications which you can list on the back. It’s also a good idea to list contact information for your veterinarian should they need to be contacted regarding your pets.