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Many of the guys I have met from Hooville are dog owners, a couple have cats, and even zipper probably has a pet snake or something similar, (j/k zip) so this article on how to save your pet in a disaster might come in handy. It's sad to think what happened in Katrina...not just that people died because they didn't want to abandon their pets. They shouldn't have to make that choice.


True stories from Katrina, and how to keep your pet safe during a disaster

By Christie Keith, Special to SF Gate


Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Marie Knoblock loved her dogs, a Lab named Herman and a chow chow named Jimmi. She became a friend of mine through an online dog forum and when I went to work for a pet community Web site in 2000, she happily gave me photos of her dogs to use. Jimmi's smiling face greets the visitors to the DogHobbyist.com Chow Chow Forum to this day.

But Jimmi smiles only in photos now, because he, along with Marie and Herman, drowned when Hurricane Katrina drove flood waters into their home in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Marie was riding out the storm with her daughter, Kim, and Kim's two dogs, as well as an elderly houseguest and her poodle. When a disaster team showed up to evacuate the three women, they told them they had to leave their dogs behind.


All three made the decision to stay with their dogs, but when water came pouring down their street like a river, they were trapped in the house, the floodwater steadily rising. Kim left the dogs with Marie and swam underwater to the attic stairs, and was able to break out a ventilation panel and escape to the roof. Although she managed to get their houseguest and her poodle out alive, Marie, 63, as well as Jimmi, Herman, and Kim's two dogs, didn't make it past the second floor, and drowned.


Marie's story is not unique. During and after Katrina, I read dozens of stories on pet e-mail lists and forums about people who died, or nearly did, because they refused to leave their pets behind when ordered to evacuate without them. The AARP reported that many of the confirmed Katrina deaths were among senior citizens who would not abandon their pets, although exact numbers are not known.


Nightly newscasts were full of images of pets swimming forlornly after the boats that took their owners away from them. A post-Katrina poll found that 61 percent of pet owners would refuse to evacuate in the face of a disaster if it meant leaving their animals behind. For those people, "animal disaster preparedness" meant nothing more than being prepared to choose between abandoning their pets and death.


Today, it's much less likely that pet owners will have to make that terrible choice. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, disaster response agencies realized that, if human lives were to be saved, the bond between humans and their animals couldn't be ignored. Agencies such as the Red Cross worked with government departments like Homeland Security and private animal groups to develop disaster sheltering and rescue procedures that take companion animal ownership into consideration.


The recent San Diego fires put these new procedures to the test, and for the most part, proved hugely successful. Southern California evacuation facilities had accommodations for animals or arrangements with shelters to care for people's pets and livestock. In addition, businesses, including the Veterinary Clinics of America and a number of hotels, opened their doors to the pets of evacuees. So did many individuals and small business owners.


Pet author and dog trainer Liz Palika was one of those who opened not just the doors of her business but her home to animals in need. Horses and dogs were cared for at her dog training facility, located safely outside the fire area, while many small and unusual pets that local shelters were ill-equipped to handle were boarded by Palika, an experienced keeper of reptiles, amphibians and small pets.


Palika, who is the author of more than 45 books on animal care, agreed that things have changed since the days of Hurricane Katrina. "I know one of the visions I had after Katrina was the little boy with his little fluffy dog that was ripped from his arms," she told me. "And the dog that was chained on the bridge in the sun with no food, no water, and nobody there. That one just tore me up, too, as bad as the little boy losing his dog."


Images captured by news cameras weren't Palika's only experience with pets in disasters prior to this fall's fires. She and her family, as well as all their animals, were evacuated four years ago, during San Diego's Cedar fires. At that time, she said, "Animals weren't allowed in any of the evacuation centers. And although it wasn't as horrible as Katrina, it was still a bad disaster, and there were still people parked along the side of the roads or parked in shopping center parking lots with their pets, because they couldn't go to an evacuation center." Palika herself spent the time at a local beach in her car — with her pets.


When this fall's fires struck, things were different. "I think we had learned a lot from Katrina," she said. "The news media carried lots and lots of lists of facilities where pets could get help. The evacuation centers had special areas for the pets. The Del Mar Fairgrounds was set up for horses. Other people were calling in and saying, 'I'll take such and such. I've got room for five more horses.' People bringing animals with them didn't seem like a problem this time. In fact, it seemed like everybody realized that the animals needed to get out as much as the people did."


Government and relief agencies may have changed how they handle pets during disasters, but that doesn't mean individual pet owners are off the hook. Palika, who has been through four evacuations with animals now, says that some of the worst problems she's encountered were from pet owners who had no plans of any kind to evacuate, transport, or care for their pets during a crisis.


Her advice? Start planning for disaster long before one happens. "If you haven't thought about it seriously, do so now, because many times you won't have much time," she said. "When a tornado or wildfire is heading towards your home, you need to grab your family, your pets, and any needed items and move."


Palika's tips for disaster preparedness include:




Make sure your pet has identification: Microchip, tattoo, identification tag with your cell phone number or some other means of identification.


A means of restraining your pet, such as a cage, crate, leash, collar or harness.


Veterinary records, including vaccinations.


At least a week's worth of food and a bowl for food and one for water.


Any bedding your pet will need.


A complete first aid kit for your pet. (The Red Cross has two booklets available with information on pet first aid kids on its Web site.


Any medications your pet might need or takes regularly.

Veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber, host of PBS television series "Lassie's Pet Vet" and spokesperson for Home Again, a pet microchip manufacturer and registry, agrees strongly that identification is a critical part of disaster preparedness for pet owners. "A pet should always have a collar with an ID tag on them. You should also have a city or a county or a veterinarian rabies tag, which also serves as a form of identification — and will, by the way, protect an animal in the event it does end up in a shelter somewhere." He also suggests that each form of collar identification be attached to the collar with a separate ring, so if one falls off, the others will still be there.


But collars and tags can be lost or removed, so Werber urges pet owners to use microchips as a form of permanent identification for pets. After Hurricane Katrina, he said, dogs were sent all over the country to be sheltered, and microchips led to a number of successful reunions — including some in Werber's own practice. "Because of microchipping, we had identified a number of dogs that were picked up by the rescue agencies and brought out to California," he told me. "I actually treated a few of these dogs, and those with microchips were ultimately reunited with their families."


Sadly, some pets had microchips that had never been registered with the company that made them, and thus were untraceable. "It only takes a minute to register your pet's microchip," he said. "You can do it on the phone or on the Web site. But do it."


Palika agrees on the critical importance of pet identification, but it's not at the top of her list. If she could give only one single piece of advice to pet owners facing evacuation, it would be this: "Never, ever leave a pet behind."


She said, "During the Cedar fires, pets left behind were killed or, worse yet, were horribly burned before they died. All the people that did leave animals behind severely regretted it. People have to think ahead, and they have to get out of the mind-set that 'This will never happen to me.'"


Palika knows that first hand. Although her home was not initially in the fire's path during this fall's fires, a change in wind meant she ended up facing evacuation as well. She had to find shelter not just for her family and her animals, but for all the pets in her care — including snakes, rats, lizards, and other animals requiring need special handling — and against which many people have a strong prejudice.


"I guess because we have been evacuated several times, and I have left the house with a truck full of animals, that I know how panicky people can feel," she explained. "It's a sense of duty, not just to the people, because many of these people hadn't made plans ahead of time and I wanted to shake them until their teeth rattled, but to the animals. The animals can't do anything about their situation. They have no say over where they are or who's feeding them or who's taking care of them. So if I can help even the little brindle mice and the hairless rat, you know, they're alive, too."


An animal disaster preparedness brochure developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with the American Kennel Club, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States can be downloaded here. Copies are also available by calling 1-800-BE-READY .


Christie Keith is a contributing editor for Universal Press Syndicate's Pet Connection and past director of the Pet Care Forum on America Online. She lives in San Francisco.

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Guest zipperzone

>Many of the guys I have met from Hooville are dog owners, a

>couple have cats, and even zipper probably has a pet snake or

>something similar,


Not to worry about me Lucky.


Me and my water moccasin will fare just fine.

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I have acquaintances who are police officers who were sent down to NOLA after Katrina and they reported having to stop other officers from shooting dogs left in people's homes. Even if the dogs had survived the flood, they did not survive the rescue. And then those that were rescued were frequently lost from their humans. I had seven dogs at one time and when there was a tornado warning in my area, a rare occurrence, I drove home and the eight of us huddled in the basement bathroom until the all clear came. 7 dogs and me in a 4 x 10 foot room.

I have never seen a purplekow;

I never hope to see one;

I can tell you anyhow;

I'd rather see than be one


Help there is a purplekow in my mirror

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Lucky thanks for the reminder about taking care of our pets in the nature of a natural disaster. I'm lucky since we don't really have any major natural disasters in Seattle but for those who live in areas where this stuff happens it's a nice reminder to have ones pets things ready just in case.





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That must have been an interesting experience for the dogs. I'm curious how they reacted to the sitution. I grew up in an area that was prone to tornados and hurricanes when they moved in from the gulf.


My dog would go berserk like a couple of hours before any warnings would get issued. She'd start pacing then running back and forth from one side of the backyard fence to the other. If the weather was really bad, she would start this strange howl/bark. When that started my mom really got worried and would start securing things getting us ready for some major weather issues.


I do believe its true that animals have an extra sense related to the environment. There's plenty of stories of dogs, cats, farm animals behaving strangely prior to earthquakes and other natural events. The connections between dogs and humans in these instances are documented. Also saw where there's a scientist who monitors "lost cat" notices to predict earthquakes. Hmmm...so the dogs stick around to warn us but the cats get out of town....typical. :-)

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Cats have a natural flee instinct. (As opposed to a flea instinct. ;-)) Nine lives? HAH! They're just good at running from danger!


There is an earthquake somewhere in SoCal every day, but they're usually so small that humans don't notice them. The seismographs (and my cats) pick them up.


The cats will jump up from a dead sleep and start pacing from one end of the apartment to the other sniffing the air, trying to figure out what's wrong. The only time they EVER try to get "out" is during one of these episodes. (They normally steadfastly avoid "out", and whine incessantly if I take them "out".)


After the tsunami in Thailand, several news stories reported the relatively low death toll on wildlife. That's because they all headed to high ground.


Animals know stuff. We'd do well to listen to them.

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>I do believe its true that animals have an extra sense related to the environment. There's plenty of stories of dogs, cats, farm animals behaving strangely prior to earthquakes and other natural events.


Got to agree with you on that one. When I lived in an earthquake area I could predict when a quake would happen by watching the behavior of my dogs. They were always restless 12-24 hours before quakes (even minor ones). They were amazingly accurate.


When I lived in the mid-west my dog started acting very strange one evening. There were storms in the area and they were predicting tornados. But the tornado sirens didn't go off and I "assumed" I was safe. But my dog continued pacing and whining.


A tornado hit the house (the sirens malfunctioned). If I had believed the warning of the dog, I would have been in the basement rather than stay on the second story when the roof was compromised.


Luckily there were no injuries. But I should have gone to the basement the minute the dog started giving me the warning.

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I have friends that fight forest fires, and asked them if they see many dead animals. They told me they have never seen any. Sometimes they when they are putting out hot spots after the fire has gone over they will see squirrels or chipmunks, come out from underneath tree trunks or hole in trees.

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