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Community Voices: Emergency preparedness – who will care for your pet?

Martha Boden



Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

The risk of Covid-19 remains, and no one knows how severely ill they will be become if they are exposed to it. Your pet has little or no risk of contracting the illness from you, but you may have a hard time caring for your pet if you become ill.

Your home will be the best – and safest – place for your pet. But you may need to call on resources to help during your sickest days, or if you are hospitalized. Your health status could change quickly, preventing you from communicating important information.

With a little preparation, though, you can plan for your pet’s care in the unfortunate event that you or your family becomes ill. 

Identify who can help. Family members, friends or co-workers who live nearby, or a neighbor, may be able to help if you’re too sick to walk your dog or feed your pet, or if you’re hospitalized. A trusted groomer, pet daycare, dog walker, or boarding facility is another option for help with advance notice. Identify potential options and get agreement from at least two people or companies to help in an emergency.  

Prepare a pet supply kit. The last thing that you’ll want to do while ill is track down pet food or supplies. Your pet supply kit can be put together now and should include the following:

  • Name and contact information for the person who can care for your pets, and a backup contact
  • Collars with ID tags and a leash
  • Crate or carrier to transport your pet
  • Vaccination records
  • Two weeks of food, treats, medicines and any other supplies necessary to care for your pet 
  • Several toys
  • Daily care instructions that include feeding and potty routines, medications with dosing instructions, and situations when the caretaker should contact your veterinarian
  • Contact information for your veterinary clinic

Create an emergency information sheet. Think about information that can help emergency responders do their job more efficiently, and quickly notify your loved ones that you’re being transported to the hospital. Place your health and emergency contact information – including your pet’s caretakers – on a sheet of paper and put it in an easily accessible location. The paramedic or emergency medical technician can relay this information to the hospital and your emergency contacts. 

Microchip your dog or cat. A dog or cat that’s unfamiliar with a temporary caretaker may accidentally get separated, and a microchip is the fastest and most reliable way to bring your pet home. Get your pet microchipped and update your contact information with the microchip company. Ask your veterinarian or the shelter where you adopted your pet to help you update the information if you’re not sure how to do it. 

Talk about the plan with your family. Share the pet plan with your family now so they know who to call and what to do in an emergency. It’ll bring you peace of mind, knowing that your beloved pets will be cared for in an emergency.  

In addition to planning for potential illness, it’s wise to consider options for your pet if lost income could make it difficult for you to afford to feed your pet. Several local animal shelters like SPCA Tampa Bay and many local food pantries provide pet food to owners who have economic hardship. In addition, SPCA Tampa Bay’s Veterinary Center offers options to help pet owners whose pets have immediate medical needs. 

The most important thing: Start planning now. Covid-19 may continue to impact our community for the coming months, and hurricane season is right around the corner. Now is the time to create or update your pet plan for serious illness, hurricanes and other emergencies.  

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