Saturday, April 18, 2015

What to expect at an animal evacuation shelter

2012 "Twix & Twiz  by Alice Sillavan Bertelson
During a disaster, information is available online on how to prepare to evacuate with your animals. You may have to do research, but you should be able to find where you take your animals. But what can you expect at the animal evacuation shelter? Your experience may vary, but these are things to anticipate.
You will be asked to complete paperwork for each of your animals. This is when you want to use your best handwriting and put down not just your phone numbers, but the numbers of family members out of state. If you cannot be reached, maybe these family members can be contacted. Read the paperwork carefully. Some forms say that animals left with the shelter will become shelter property after ten days. Not ten days after the shelter closes, but ten days after you sign the paperwork! So read all the fine print.
Tell the truth about your animal's temperament. This is to protect the staff, your animal and other animals. If you have a dog who must be isolated, or can't stand to have his collar grabbed, or hates cats or dogs or people, put it on the paperwork and tell the staff.
If you did not bring vaccination records, your dog or cat may be re-vaccinated.
Write your animal's name and contact information on the crate, but chances are you may not get the same crate back. It is just not possible to keep everything you bring together with your animal. Don't expect the food you packed to be the food served your animals. They will likely get potluck, but do bring the food. It will be needed. Discuss an medication with the staff.
It is a good idea to keep your dog leash. You will need that when you pick your dog up. Ask what the policy is on collars. Sometimes they are removed because a collar can get hung up on the inside of an enclosure. If the collar is not needed, you need to keep it.
Ask what the policy is for visiting. Most animals adapt better to a shelter with visits from family. The animal is reassured that his people know where he is. Vet hospitals now encourage family to visit because it aids in recovery. The same principle is at work here. If you have the time and inclination, ask if you can volunteer. They may need help and you may want a distraction.
Before turning your animals over, make sure you have a photo of them on your phone. A photo with you is even better, but be careful! This needs to be done in a closed room. Dogs and cats are even more of a flight risk during an evacuation.
At the animal evacuation shelter, you will be helped by local animal control staff not getting paid overtime and unpaid volunteers. Some of them may be evacuees too and all of them probably have been working long hours to set up the shelter for your animals. These are the people who will be walking your dog and cleaning your cat's litter. Show them the kindness they will be showing your loved ones.
(If you are hoping to keep your animal with you, see a previous article: Motels that accept animals are welcome stop for evacuees with pets)