Updated Oct. 12, 2021
Reptiles & emergencies / natural disasters
Bare with me as this is a large topic to cover and one that we have had personal experience with. I will do my best to address as many points as possible. If anyone has additional information they would like to contribute, please email me. I would be happy to add it to the website version of this article.
Rewind to 2012, I was at our local vets' office and just so happened to read one of the pamphlets they had out about pet things to have prepared in advance in case of emergency. Little did I know that in a couple of weeks a huge windstorm would cut through our area, and that information would help.
The storm came out of nowhere. Trees all around came crashing down, felling powerlines, blocking roads, one neighbor's tree caused a gas leak, another neighbors room was cut in half from a falling tree. In short, it was chaos. We live in a cul-de-sac so our exit was blocked off by a downed powerline that we were not going to test to see if it was live.
I am grateful to have read that pamphlet as it was still fresh in my mind and helped us prepare for evacuation. I am also grateful that we didn't have the number of reptiles that we currently do. It was difficult enough to figure out how to evacuate with two ferrets, two small dogs, a bird, a newt, and a couple of small snakes.
We grabbed all of our pet carriers, a water jug for the newt, and enough pet food, and their medications to last them all for several weeks as we did not know when it would be safe to return.
We kicked down a fence in the backyard and traversed a field that looked like it had been bombed, lots of giant holes and trees uprooted and dangerously leaning. This made moving with disabilities and all of our packed items difficult. Once across the field, we were able to meet with my inlaws who thankfully are fantastic people and were willing to take us on and our menagerie of critters.
The reason I want to share this story with you all is that there are so many factors to emergencies and it can be difficult to remember all of the items while you are in a state of panic. Also, so many people's evacuation plans only cover getting out, not what comes after.
Pets are what most of us think about grabbing first in the case of a dissaster, weather it is a house fire, earthquake, flood etc. But what about their necessary items? This can consist of their medications, food, substrate, heating source/s....now think about the amount, how long can the animal be properly cared for if you have to stay at a hotel or friend / family home?
This situation is hard enough to manage with pets that most folks are comfortable with, but as many of you know- lots of folks are not comfortable with reptiles. So you may have friends or family who are happy to home you during an emergency, but what about your pet/s?
These and more are all things that need to be covered BEFORE an emergency. Be sure that any items intended for emergency use are easily accessible. Kept stocked, and are all put together. If your prep gear is all stored somewhere in a shed or basement, it may not be able to be gotten to. We recommend having an emergency enclosure and supplies ready for each animal you own. The supplies should last at least 72 hours (4L/day per average dog, 1L/day per average cat). Ideally you would set aside enough to last for up to a month.
Water In many types of disasters, the first thing that gets contaminated or cut off is clean drinking water. That is why most preparation lists list potable water. We may think about the amount needed for us humans but the same applies to our pets.
Enclosures It is not realistic for most of us to have full-sized enclosures on standby in case of an emergency, and realistically this is not needed, and likely would be difficult to travel with. The animal should have access to a smaller enclosure that can be easily moved, pre-prepped with the substrate, and a water bowl. The animal should be able to stretch out and be able to turn around with ease.
Multiple Reptiles After the storm, I sat down and took a look at what could be done better, especially in the case of multiple reptiles. I found these wonderful containers that snap together at Wal-Mart. The top lid has a handle so it works well for transportation. It is light and large enough for an adult Western Hognose for travelling to an expo, or for emergency temporary housing. You can even use a reptile heating pad on the back to regulate the temperature (hooked to a reptile grade thermostat of course) All I had to do was add some air holes.
Emergency Contacts Discuss in advance with multiple family and friends if they are ok with you and your pets staying with them in the case of an emergency. It is a good idea to supply your emergency contact with a care list for each of your pets if you are not the one looking after your pet/s. This list should cover everything from temperatures needed, feeding, medical, your vet's contact information and more. Be sure to go over all of it with your people before an emergency in case there are any questions or things left out. This also doubles as a vacation care sheet.
Quick check list
- This or a different check list
- Pet first aid kit
- Clean bottled drinking water
- Substrate, already in the emergency enclosure.
- Pet medication/s
- Heat source/s and reptile thermostat/s
- Portable emergency enclosure/s
- Pet food
- Pet toys
- Photo/s of your pet/s for identification if lost
- Any pet-related legal papers / registration etc.
- Vets contact info saved to your phone
- Emergency contacts saved to your phone
- Hotels that accept pets, particularly reptiles. Save their number/s.
For further info on this topic for cats and dogs, check out the below links.
Government of Canada's "Get Prepared"
Department of Health and Human Services' Pet Disaster Kit Checklist