Kansas City team teaches pet owners how to keep their furry friends safe during storms

SHAWNEE, Kan. — It’s a heartbreaking decision hundreds of pet owners have faced when severe weather strikes. What do you do when your furry friends are not allowed to go to shelters with you? 

Do you leave them behind or stay with them and put your own life in danger? 

When disaster strikes, gathering your most valuable possessions is important, and for many people, their pets are the first things that come to mind.

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According to the Kansas KC Metro Animal Response Team, in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf, a large number of people failed to evacuate in time because they didn’t want to leave their pets. But there is an option for pet owners to keep their dog, cat or another animal safe if they prepare ahead of time.

Sherry Oswald and Carla Lewis run the Kansas KC Metro Animal Response Team. They understand pet owners have a difficult time choosing when to evacuate if it means leaving their beloved pets behind. 

To help ease the burden for pet owners, they train volunteers and pet lovers on how to protect local pets in a time of need. 

“We would help set up a temporary emergency shelter for the animals, provide medical care, food, water, and try to reunite the displaced pets with their owners,” said Oswald.

The response team said one thing pet owners can do is think ahead and prepare. Create a “Go bag” for your animal just in case severe weather strikes. This includes a picture of you and your pet, their toys and food.

“Having their bed or their blanket, or something that smells like home, is very important,” said Lewis. 

Lewis and Oswald said having all of those items will make it easier to reunite you with your pet.

If you would like to volunteer for the Animal Response Team, they are holding a two-day training event April 28 and 29 at the Leawood Justice Center. 

Tips for pet owners

When severe weather strikes, protecting your pets takes just as much preparation and thought as protecting your family. 

Here are some tips from animal hospitals on what you can do to make sure your pets stay safe: 

  1. Bring pets indoors at the first sign of a storm. Animals can become disoriented and wander away from home during a disaster.
  2. Before the storm, find out if any evacuation shelters accept animals. Always have a safe haven for yourself and your pets in the event of an evacuation. Do not leave pets behind.
  3. Have your pet carrier out and ready to go to transfer your furry friend safely.
  4. Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification.
  5. Create an emergency kit for your pet. Include at least two weeks of your pet’s medication, a week’s worth of food and water, a blanket, a flashlight, and leashes.
  6. Put a rescue alert sticker on your front door or window to let rescuers know there are pets inside your home.
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