Pets’ lives matter: Fort McMurray Pets and Emergency Preparedness

The Fort McMurray wildfire has already claimed over 200,000 hectares of land. Over 80,000 of Fort McMurray residents have been evacuated, together with countless pets.

Two human lives have already been taken in this tragedy – two young people died in a traffic accident en route to Edmonton. One week after the start of this disaster, we still don’t know the full extent of the damage, or how long the fire will last.

Fort McMurray Fire

Fort McMurray Fire image via CBC

Fort McMurray pets left behind

Fort McMurray pets have been among the key issues surrounding coverage of the disaster. Many companion animals were left in the city by desperate evacuees. We don’t know how many at this time, but last week The Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society and Calgary Humane Society requested 900 animal crates to take north.  A truckload of over 200 cats and dogs was sent to Edmonton this morning from Fort McMurray, and more will likely follow.

Of course, many families took their companion animals with them, in spite of the difficulties. On Friday I heard an interview on CBC radio with Marisa Heath, a Fort McMurray woman who had been evacuated with two dogs, a cat and seven kittens. In tears, she explained to the interviewer how these animals were her family. She and her husband had spent over 36 hours on the side of the road with the animals, waiting to leave town in an emergency convoy. The stress must have been unbearable, for both humans and animals.

In spite of their tragedy, it’s heartwarming to hear stories of Alberta families who’ve welcomed evacuees and their pets into their homes. Oil company camps have also extended hospitality to thousands of families (pets included!), and stories of late-night runs to buy animal food abound.

Prepare for every family member in case of emergency

This tragic event reminds us how important it is to have emergency supplies for our companion animals in addition to food for the humans in our families. Frankly, food for people is usually easier to come by than food for animals, and it’s important to keep that in mind in emergencies. Please take extra time to pack a “go” bag with food for everyone, especially children and animals.

The Government of Canada recommends the following items to prepare animals for emergencies (pretty much every one of these items, with some modification, i.e., a carseat rather than a carrier, also applies to children in your care):

  • Pet identification. If you aren’t with your pet at all times, their ID might be the only means you have of finding them.

Emergency kit, including:

  • A sturdy crate or carrier – for their protection during transportation
  • A strong leash or harness – if you will be taking the animal out of its carrier, you need a leash to protect your pet from harming or being harmed by other animals. Also, frightened animals are far more likely to run away in these sorts of situations.
  • Food and water for at least 72 hours (4L/day per average dog, 1L/day per average cat)
  • Bowls and can opener for food, as needed
  • Newspaper, paper towels, plastic bags, litter, and/or litter box
  • Special medications, dosage, and veterinarian’s contact information
  • Pet file (including recent photos of the animal, your emergency numbers, contact information for friends who could house your pet, copies of any licenses, and vaccination records)
  • A pet first-aid kit
  • Blanket and toy

Finally, this probably goes without saying, but if for some reason you cannot take your pet with you, do not cage or tie them. They need to be free to avoid dangers.

What to do about missing animals

If you lost a companion animal in the Fort McMurray fire, please fill out an Emergency Pet Rescue Request so that emergency personnel can ensure they are found.

What do you think? Join the conversation!

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