Tedi Graham

Don’t wait until the last minute to plan for a tornado, ice storm, wild fire, earthquake or any other natural disaster.

Start planning as soon as there is a mention of the possibility of a disaster. Consider all of the things you need to do to keep your pets safe. Some you can do now.

Be sure that your pets are wearing collars and identification tags with your current contact information on them. Put your cell phone number on the tag as well as the phone number of a close friend or relative in case you have to evacuate and are separated from your pets. Keep their vaccinations up to date. Get them microchipped and keep the registration current. A flashing collar could make it easier to find your pets in the dark.

Your pets should have an emergency kit. It should include any medications that they need and pet first aid supplies. You should have enough food for at least three days and a can opener if needed, plus enough water for your cat or dog for three days. If you have a cat you will need a litter box and litter. Your dog will need poo bags. Add paper towels and pet friendly cleaning solution. Put a list of phone numbers of your vet, emergency services, animal rescue centers and out of the area friends and relatives in a plastic bag in your emergency kit and keep it in an easily accessible area. Each pet should have his own blanket and it is best if each has his own carrier.

Before a disaster hits find a safe place to stay that permits pets since not all emergency shelters allow animals. Check in your area to see what shelters are available where you can bring your pets with you. Get a list of hotels and motels outside of your area that accept pets. Some may have a policy to allow pets in an emergency. Ask about it. Make a reservation in advance as soon as you hear that you might have to leave your home.

Arrange with friends or relatives who live in a safe area if they would be willing to take care of your pets or you and your pets. If you have multiple dogs and cats, you can ask more than one person to help with providing a place for them. Some kennels or veterinarians will board your animals. Find out in advance.

If you are away from home during a disaster or evacuation, plan for friend or neighbor who knows your pets and whom the pets are comfortable with to pick them up and take them to a specific location. Discuss the details well in advance. Be willing to do the same for your friends and neighbors.

Evacuate with your pets as soon as possible. Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. You may not be able to go back for them. Cats and dogs left behind can be lost, injured or killed. Leaving before conditions become severe keeps everyone, including pets, safer and is a lot less stressful. The smell of smoke or high winds and thunder frighten many cats and dogs and make them harder to manage.

If you have to wait out the disaster at home, stay together in a safe area of your house. Put all of your emergency supplies in that room. Listen to the radio and don’t come out until it is safe to do so.

Be patient with your pets afterwards. Give them lot of attention and get them back to their usual routines as soon as you can.

The Pittsburg County Animal Shelter is located at 1206 N. West St. in McAlester. The hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. The phone number is 918-423-7803. The adoption fee is $20 for dogs and $15 for cats. All have been neutered or spayed, vaccinated and microchipped.