Prepare Your Animal Shelter for Emergency Evacuations

July 11, 2013

For animal lovers and those who work with animals, whether it is at an animal shelter, veterinary clinic, or boarding facility, one of the things that you may think of least is what to do in the event of a serious emergency or natural disaster.  The animals that depend on you for shelter, security, and sustenance will also depend on you for their safety in times of crisis, and you need to be prepared in the unfortunate event that something happens to require that your beloved animals be evacuated.

Here are some tips to help you be prepared if the worst happens, and to ensure that the animals in your care are provided for in a way that ensures their safety and well-being:

  1. Have a contingency plan that is documented and has been distributed to all vital staff members.
  2. Organize a crisis team that will respond to your clinic or shelter in the event of an emergency or natural disaster that requires evacuation of the animals.
  3. Establish at least two alternate off-site locations for relocating the animals if they must be evacuated.  You will want these locations to be prepared to house your animals on a long-term basis if it becomes necessary.
  4. Ensure that your facility has adequate transportation containers available for any animals that must be relocated and cannot be leashed and led (such as cats, sick or injured animals, or animals that are not socialized with other animals).  Also, designate which vehicles will be used for transport and who will be driving them.
  5. Make sure there is plenty of food, water, bedding, medicine, and other necessities stored at your alternate animal shelter locations in the event you are unable to take any supplies from your current site.
  6. Decide on the primary route to your evacuation destination and then select at least two alternate routes, in case one or more of your points of egress is blocked.  Make sure your staff knows these routes.

Managing an evacuation at your animal shelter or clinic does not have to be a confusing and stressful ordeal for you or the animals in your care, as long as you are prepared in advance and have properly prepared your staff for such an emergency.  Above all else, make sure you remain as calm as possible and keep the chaos to a minimum, to lessen the potentially negative impact on the animals that will be depending on you to get them to safety.

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