Pet Disaster Preparedness: Earthquakes

Jocelyn Bishop
June 25, 2019

Pet Safety

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Summer means more fun adventures at the dog park, swimming, hiking and more. But, imagine being in the middle of a puppy play-date, only to feel the ground shaking beneath your feet!

With all the fun we have with our dogs in the summer, it can be easy to forget it’s also the perfect time for natural disasters like tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes to occur.

The thought of being trapped in the midst of any natural disaster is frightening, but an unfortunate reality for many Americans, and their pets, every year. And unlike tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, earthquakes strike without any warning.

As a pet parent, it’s even more important for you to prepare ahead of a natural disaster, so you can keep you and your fur babies safe.

Did you know?

Since the ’80s, the number of Natural Disasters has tripled.

(Source: Science Source Direct)

To help us prepare for the unthinkable, we reached out to Jason Ballmann from the Southern California Earthquake Center at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Jason Nicholas (Dr. J) Chief Medical Officer at Preventive Vet, to offer some great insights about keeping our pets, (and ourselves!) safe during and after an earthquake.

Earthquake Preparedness for Pets

What is an Earthquake?

According to FEMA, an earthquake is caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface. Ground shaking from earthquakes can collapse buildings and bridges; disrupt gas, electric and phone service; and, sometimes, trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires and huge, destructive ocean waves like tsunamis.

A little preparedness goes a long way.

Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. As a rule of thumb, what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.

8 Things You Should Do to Prepare for an Earthquake

1. Create a buddy system in case you’re not home. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals when you are away.

2. Identify shelters. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept dogs, cats, or any pets for that matter.

3. Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter, in case your pet needs medical care. Add the contact information to your emergency kit. Many vets in “Earthquake Country” have had to deal with animals and their owners after major disasters. They probably have some insights that are good for you to know.

4. Make sure your dogs are microchipped. And, then make sure the microchip information is up to date and current so they can be identified and safely returned to you should you become separated. You should also always have a recent picture of your pet on your phone to show people if you have to look for them (but we’re sure you already have multiple photos on your phone!).

5. Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.

6. Seek out boarding options. If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians, and animal shelters will need your pet’s medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current. If you don’t want to keep the official copy in your emergency preparedness kit, keep an updated copy.

7. Check out the Pet Preparedness Social Media Toolkit. The Pet Preparedness Social Media Toolkit has safety and preparedness messages you can share on your social media channels. You can either copy these messages directly or customize them to reach your audience.

8. Build an Emergency To-Go Kit:  An emergency preparedness kit was mentioned a few times already— that means it’s vital to you and your pet’s safety after a natural disaster like an earthquake. You can’t predict an earthquake, but you can be over prepared for the aftermath. Pet owners should have plenty of water and food, first and foremost, set aside for their kit (don’t forget to periodically check the expiration dates if it’s been a while since you stocked up).

Water purification tablets or water filtration systems are also great investments. Your emergency kit should be full of the basics you and your pet will need to survive when you depart from the affected area.

What to include in your Emergency Kit

  • Plenty of food. Pack at least a three day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.
  • Clean water. Pack at least three days of water just for your pets.
  • Medicines and medical records. Make sure these are up-to-date!
  • Important documents. Registration information, adoption papers, and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
  • First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.
  • Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down in.
  • Sanitation. Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, and household chlorine bleach.
  • A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics.
  • Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys, and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.
  • Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.

What To Do With Your Dog During an Earthquake

Drop, Cover and Hold!

When a dog gets frightened, they may bite or scratch in order to flee to safety, so it is critical you do not try to restrain your pet.

If you’re outside walking with your dog when an earthquake strikes, drop to the ground before the shaking knocks you down and crawl to an open area away from trees, power lines, and buildings.

When the ground begins to shake, your dog will most likely panic and try to escape to safety.

It’s important that you hold on to the leash as best as you can, but if your safety is at risk you may need to drop the leash and let your dog find safety on their own. This is why microchipping is so important.

After you drop to the ground and are in a safe location, cover your head and neck with your hands and arms and hold on to something. Animals are very good at finding safety and hiding until the danger has passed, so you can look for your pet immediately after the shaking stops.

“Animals have natural instincts and will act on those as they see fit. We recommend people try to leave them alone and focus on their own life safety in those moments, to protect oneself and not trip or be struck by something as they try to find or rescue their dogs,” says Ballman. “Also, if you try to interfere with them, do so at your own risk – you may get an unwelcome bite or scratch that could cause you some harm.”

Should you go inside a collapsing building to save your pet during an Earthquake?

“You do have to keep in mind that if you go back in a building and it collapses you’re also putting first responders at great risk trying to rescue you because you’ve gone back in for your pet. Evaluating the situation and making sure it’s as safe as possible before doing so, and taking into account what the loss would be if you were lost in terms of any children you have or any members you would be leaving behind, and then the risk for first responders, as well. These are things people should weigh in their mind, regardless if it’s an earthquake, fire, tornado, hurricane, anything of that nature.”

ASPCA Animals Inside Free Pet Safety Pack
Get you Free ASPCA Pet Saftey Pack Today!

The Fundamentals of Earthquake Preparedness

  • Include your dogs in your emergency plans.
  • Build a separate emergency kit for your dogs.
  • Keep digital records and/or pictures to identify your pet after a disaster in case you become separated.
  • Create a list of places that accept dogs or cats if an emergency happens.
  • Stay Informed and know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation plan, and when to take shelter.
  • 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 to receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.
  • Order a Free Pet Saftey Pack from ASPA. In your safety pack, you’ll find our pet rescue window decal to help alert rescue personnel that pets are inside your home in the event of an emergency. You’ll also find an ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) magnet, so you can keep APCC’s information handy should you need to call us about your pet.
Home damaged after an Earthquake

Did you know?

California experiences the most frequent damaging earthquakes; however, Alaska experiences the greatest number of large earthquakes—most located in uninhabited areas.

(Source: FEMA.gov Earthquake Facts)

Can dogs detect Earthquakes Before They happen?

“Some animals may have more alert sensory capabilities than others – but that’s simply all it is – they don’t have the ability to predict earthquakes. Some are able to hear car alarms going off, objects rattling and rolling, or other sounds occurring at farther distances than what humans can hear,” Ballmann said. “Additionally, some animals may be able to feel minor foreshocks that humans cannot. Earthquake scientists have looked into claims that animals can predict earthquakes, but have not found any supporting evidence to prove that they can do so.”

Have you ever been caught in an Earthquake with your pet?
Let us know in the comments below!

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization. Redbarn.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. Please note that each situation is different, and you should always consult your veterinarian should you have any questions about your pet’s health.

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