Animal Expert Offers Pet Flood Safety Suggestions

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(PRWEB) January 12, 2005

When disaster hits the mountains of southern California it is serious business. Only three highways lead in and out of the Big Bear Valley and this week’s storms have created havoc.

In October of 2003 wildfires closed two of those roads down. In January of 2005 all three highways closed and numerous other threats endangered residents and visitors to the southern California mountain resort.

According to mountain resident and author Diana L. Guerrero, “The main problem is that people were not prepared for such severe weather systems. This time of year we have a heavy load of visitors and their lack of understanding towards drastic changes in weather conditions and navigating in them complicates matters.”

Lack of preparation and understanding translated into two hundred cars stranded on an area of road called the “Arctic Circle.” A tour bus, failing to heed chain restrictions, blocked the highway and put motorists at further risk to mud and rock slides. Heavy snow and ice required snow cat rescues and the evacuation of motorists who were then housed in emergency quarters in the valley. The highway remains blocked until those vehicles can be removed.

Fawnskin mountain residents were isolated when flood waters covered the highway. Downed trees and slides blocked alternate routes out. Roads turned to rushing rivers.

In Big Bear Lake and other areas the snow berms, walls of ice created by workers clearing snow from the main roads, formed channels for water, flooded roads and cut deep into the asphalt.

The torrential currents flooded areas and blocked drains–contributing to the flooding of businesses. Heavy snow, followed by rain, collapsed roofs and inflicted water damage to public buildings.

Abandoned cars also posed problems. Guerrero said, “Unfortunately people do not realize the risk that deep snow or moving water poses. Cars attempting to cross the deep torrents often stall and create more problems by blocking the roads and creating the need for motorist rescue. People attempting to drive on roads covered in knee deep snow stranded themselves, blocking an alternate route, and created a heavier load for emergency service personnel.”

But the mountain residents were not the only people impacted by the recent storm conditions. The recent flooding across California impacted humans but it also created devastating problems for animals.

Guerrero said, “Pet owners and animal professionals can take steps to insure pet safety and avoid serious problems before the threat of disaster, specifically flooding, impacts their homes or businesses.”

Guerrero is the author of the booklet, “Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals” and is one of the contributing editors to “Resources for Crisis Management in Zoos and Other Animal Care Facilities.” In addition to her written works, she holds numerous certifications in the animal disaster field from groups such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

“In any disaster, people should keep close tabs on their animals. They shouldn’t be left outdoors in these type of conditions and pets need to be monitored. If a situation is unsafe for humans it is unsafe for animals.”

Guerrero continued. “Alternate flood plans should include escape areas for animals so they have access to higher elevations. Animals are not usually allowed in human emergency shelters due to health precautions and limited space. So plug into an animal network through your local shelters and community rescue groups. If you are not sure what these are ask community leaders and the animal agencies in your area for direction.”

In her experience, flood animal rescuers find critters hoarse from crying for help. She stressed that people in flood prone areas need to take precautions–and those plans should include include animal evacuation and safety.

“When people evacuate they need to take their animals because they usually won’t have a second chance to go back to get them. Contingency plans for when they are away from home are essential, too.”

Guerrero’s animal disaster booklet, now in the seventh edition, offers tips to prepare prior to a disaster, how to form or get involved in a animal disaster preparedness network, and what items to include in kits for dogs, cats, horses, and birds. Guerrero also includes tip sheets for behavior, identification, health, diet, and sanitation for multiple species during a disaster.

The booklet ends with a section on post disaster animal behavior and list valuable resources for the pet owner including animal disaster agencies, where to get training, and suppliers of kits and equipment.

Guerrero’s pet flood safety suggestions are:

-Take your animals with you! Pets that are released or left behind often become victims of flood waters, contaminated food or water, or exposure to the elements.

-Make sure animals have waterproof ID tags on them.

-Three weeks of supplies is not excessive for humans or pets.

-Proof of current vaccinations will be required for housing animals in many rescue facilities. Make sure you have copies stored in a waterproof container with other supplies so you don’t forget to take them.

-Maintain current photos of your property and animals.

-Place pet rescue decals on a window or door to alert rescue personnel to the presence of critters.

-Make sure you have a plan that is effective during the times when you are separated from your pets.

-Do not tether or restrain animals when floods waters threaten your area.

-Check for evacuation plans at your stable or form a network with other facilities.

-Storm surges and flood threats mean that you need to provide a way for critters to escape and climb to safety. This does not mean turning them loose! Make sure livestock have access to higher ground.

-Use wire crates to transport and house smaller animals since they provide better ventilation and fold up easily for storage and transport.

-Don’t create a hazard by trying to forge through flooded streets with moving water.

-Return home only after authorities advise that it is safe to return.

-Use caution when returning home and walking on higher ground since insects, snakes, and other animals may have found refuge there.

-Stressed animals often avoid food and exhibit other behavior abnormalities. Allow them to adjust and refrain from reinforcing abnormal behavior.

-Post flood threats include mosquitos and other vectors. Check with local veterinarians for preventative medical tips.

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