Disaster Preparedness for Your Rabbit

Disaster Preparedness for Your Rabbit
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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.  There are some disasters that you can plan in advance for, such as hurricanes, potential flooding, or wildfire threats, and others 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.

If you live in an area that is prone to certain natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes 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 ATM’s and banks may not be open) on hand.

Evacuate early.

  • 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 then 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 that 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 pet-sitter, 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 that 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. He or she 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 that 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 he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your rabbit.

 Build a Kit

Include basic survival items and items to keep your rabbit happy and comfortable. Start with this list:

  • Food and Hay. If you live in a high risk area, have more food and hay on hand than usual as after a disaster many have lost all their supplies, consider that you may have disruptions in transportation and not be able to receive supplies for a while. Keep your supply in an airtight, waterproof container.  Also, keep a “grab and go” supply in your bug out kit.
  • Water. At least a week of water specifically for your pets.
  • Medicines and medical records. Have all your animals’ medications filled before the storm or if you are in a storm area keep meds updated and that applies to humans also.
  • 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 flannels. Including a first aid reference book is a good idea too. This is the most basic list.  Additional items to consider are antibiotics, coagulants, i.v. 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. Newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, vinegar and household chlorine bleach.
  • Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your rabbit.

Get a Rescue Alert Sticker

  • A number of easy-to-use stickers are available that will let people know that rabbits are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and that 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

Disaster Preparedness for Your Rabbit

 Disaster Preparedness for Your Rabbit

June 2018 Southeast BunFest Presentation by Dawn Sailer, House Rabbit Society Board President

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