DURING last week's wildfire evacuations, fleeing families encountered conflicting advice about whether and when to take along the family pet. Some readers were horrified at reports that, under certain conditions, officials recommended leaving beloved pets at home.
To clarify: Should your family have to leave home for any disaster, be prepared to take the animals along. "Don't leave them behind," says Jennifer Phillips, director of Orange County Animal Care Services. "Take the pet with you. Show up at a shelter or anywhere. We will work it out."
But don't be surprised if disaster shelters set up for humans are not immediately able accommodate pets.
"What we try to do in each case is set up a partnership with the local Humane Society or animal control organization, so that pets can be sheltered very near where people are sheltered," says Peter Teahen, a national spokesman for the Red Cross who has been in Southern California since the fires began. "We cannot bring animals into the human shelters due to health regulations."
Disaster officials recommend that you put together an emergency preparedness plan specifically for your pets. Various organizations such as Homeland Security, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the American Red Cross recommend the following: