As we are going through a global pandemic, I thought I would take a moment and write about planning for your dog’s future. It is important to have a plan in the event you have to evacuate your home due to a natural disaster or if you are going to be unable to care for your pet for any reason. I looked to the ASPCA, a local veterinarian and a pet trust professional.
As we navigate the pandemic and get ready for storm seasons in other areas of the country, it is a good time to create a plan. The first part will cover preparing to stay in place or safely or how to be prepared to evacuate your home with your pet for an extended period of time. The second part of the blog will cover how to care for your dog if you are suddenly unable.
The first step is to evaluate what safe havens you need. This includes any havens outside your home so you can ensure you can bring your dog with you. This will include researching different hotels that accept dogs. Not all shelters will accept pets so knowing where to go is going to be very important. Your local veterinarian may have a list to share with you. Family and friends outside your residential area will also be a great resource to tap into if possible.
Next you want to have a “bugout bag”. According to the ASPCA the bag should contain the following items:
- Pet first-aid kit and guidebook (ask your vet what to include)
- 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless)
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
- Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
- Food and water bowls
- Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
- Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires
- At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and dog (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
- A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each dog
- Wee pads to line the carrier and to use elsewhere when needed
- Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
- Humans will need to have batteries, duct tape, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, phone chargers, emergency radio, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.
Store your bugout bag in a place where you will remember it easily! Maybe near a door or in the garage where it is easily visible. I know a few parents whose care is always prepared. Do what works best for you; mine is in the garage.
It is important to make sure your dog has his/her tags on and if they have been chipped, make sure the chip is working properly.
Estate Planning for your dog
Much to the chagrin of our dogs, most of us leave the house without them on a regular basis. With that creates the risk for some reason, their parent may not come home. There are some simple steps you can do to ensure your dog is care for especially if your home is just you and your dog.
Have a Buddy System: Ahead of time designate a friend, family member, trusted pet sitter that can care for your dog and knows your dog. Set this person as one of your emergency contacts in your phone as well so if you are unable to contact them yourself, your buddy is easily identifiable. Let your buddy also know where your bugout bag is just in case they need to move your dog to their home, it will be easy for them to grab the bag instead of collecting the items throughout the house.
Rescue Alert Notifications: On your keychain and on your door, there should be a notice to rescue workers that there is a dog home waiting for you. You can make your own or you can get one from the ASPCA ( online order form)
Long Term Care for your dog: As much as no one likes to discuss such topics, it is important to determine who will care for your pet if you were to pass or are no longer capable of providing your dog care. I too frequently see pets ending up in shelters because their parent passed and there isn’t a family member or friend willing to take care of their pet. As a pet parent, it would break my heart to find out if this happened after my passing. This is where setting up a pet trust is important. Setting up a pet trust outlines who and how your dog will be cared for if you were to precede their death. (The most famous pet trust is that of Leona Helmsley. She had set aside $12 million to her dog to ensure he received care and lived as he was accustomed. The money (which was contested and reduced) was to pay the caretaker, the hotel room in which he lived as well as his other needs. It was estimated to be around $100K/year.) Animal Care Trust is an organization that aids in creating these trusts as well as offers programs to care for your dog. (in home, with a family member, in a sanctuary)
Whatever your situation, make sure to have something in place; it doesn't need to be extraegant but it needs to be a plan and everyone needs to be aligned.