Moment of Paws: Prepare your dogs and cats for the unexpected

This has been an unprecedented year. We have endured challenge after challenge and, with September being National Preparedness Month, 2020 is truly the year where we should all take a moment and prepare for the unexpected.

We’ve seen more than a dozen named storms and we’re just now getting into the heart of hurricane season. Wildfires have ravaged countless miles of land in the US, and here in Massachusetts we are in the midst of a growing drought.

The threat of COVID-19 remains, and for some this may mean self-quarantine, forcing other household members, including pets, to find other accommodations.

As we prepare for the unexpected, include your pets in the planning process so when a disaster strikes, you and your pets will be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Below are four simple steps to keep in mind as we prepare.

Disaster Kit. Just like every person in the home, animals in your household need their own kits. You should include at least a one-week supply of food and water, along with collapsible dishes; a week supply of medication; photographs, tags, and other identification; leash, harness, crate/carrier; toys, blankets and treats; waste bags, litter and litter tray.

Pet-Friendly Evacuation Centers. Many, but not all, evacuation centers allow pets. Check your area for not only evacuation centers, but also pet-friendly hotels, boarding facilities, and even friends or relatives that would allow you and your pets to stay. Keep in mind that during the Covid-19 pandemic, procedures, protocols and even capacities may be altered to ensure a safe environment for both people and pets.

Make Sure Your Pet is Microchipped. We covered the importance of the microchip in last month’s column. It’s the simplest way to be reunited with your pet should you become separated. If your pet is already microchipped, take the opportunity while preparing to make sure all contact information is correct and up to date.

The Buddy System. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes. Connect with friends and neighbors to ensure that someone is willing to evacuate your pets if you are unable to. A colleague of mine recently told me a story about not being home when his neighborhood was evacuated during a wildfire. Fortunately, a neighbor was willing to gather his cat and bring her to an evacuation center and the two were reunited days later after the danger had abated.

Putting your emergency plans together is not an incredibly time-consuming project, and once you’re done, simply set it aside.

Should a disaster strike, remember every minute matters. Being prepared and knowing what to do and where to go saves precious time and helps to keep you, your family, and your pets safe should you face an emergency.

Dr. Edward Schettino is the president and CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. He has a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Pet questions? Email ARL at