The University of Delaware's Sarah DeYoung, a core faculty member with the Disaster Research Center, can speak to the challenges of how to protect pets during times of disaster, including the recent tornadoes in Kentucky and parts of the Midwest.
"A lot of people do view pets as family, but there is, of course, a variation in the levels of attachment and bonding that people have with companion animals, and that varies from household to household," says DeYoung. "There's also a disconnect because emergency managers or other decision makers that are planning for and responding to disasters don't always necessarily view pets as essential or members of the household."
DeYoung said the Brandywine Valley (PA) SPCA has recently taken in dogs and cats from Kentucky shelters.
Among things to consider in preparing for a disaster:
1) Make sure the supplies you would need for evacuating with your pet are ready now. If you wait until a hurricane is approaching to get a cat carrier or other supplies, other people may be doing the same thing and stores might not have the supplies you need. Stock up early, even if it means saving small supplies over time (i.e. buying extra cans of cat or dog food with each regular grocery trip to put in your hurricane kit).
2) Have a current picture of your pets on your phone or on a cloud file. When people are separated from their animals in disasters, an updated photo increases the chances of being reunited. Microchip your pets and make sure that the microchip registration information is up to date.
3) If you must evacuate, do not assume that you will be able to return to retrieve your animals. This means you should make every effort to evacuate with your animals. Many people unfortunately assume that they will be able to retrieve their pets later and this is often not the case.