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New York state emergency officials urge pet owners to plan ahead

As pet preparedness month winds down and summer celebrations ramp up, pet owners are being advised to make sure their furry friends are prepared for any emergency that may arise.

It’s summer in the Northeast and that means firework vendor tents have popped up in empty lots and many pets will start to hide as the loud booms and cracks fill the air.

While many families have emergency evacuation plans for themselves, they may not always think about the needs of their pets during such an event.

New York Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray spoke at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands.

“We have to make sure that we're making space for pets in emergency disasters and emergency response and recovery,” Bray said. “And so that also means we've got to make space for them in preparedness, right? We got to talk to people about how to not only keep themselves and their family safe, but to keep their furry friends safe, too. That's really a lesson that came out of the 1990s in the early 2000s. As you know, emergency management would ask people to evacuate, people wouldn't evacuate. And after a storm, you'd ask people 'Why?' And they'd say, because I'm not leaving my dogs behind, I'm not leaving my cats behind. And so now, there's really no situation in which we as a government wouldn't be also planning for people's pets. And so, we want to make sure that we're not only doing that in response to storms but we're also doing that proactively.”

In tragedies like Hurricane Katrina, people were advised to leave their animals. The Louisiana ASPCA estimates 104,000 pets were left behind. Bray says that approach should not be the default.

“We saw the destruction and the loss of life not only pet life but human life when people in my jobs before, decades ago, did that,” Bray said. “And so, yes, I want to save the dogs and the cats but also, I’m smart enough to understand that people won’t leave without their animals so it’s my job, our job for people in these roles to make space for that reality. “

Marguerite Pearson, the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, says while they cannot take dogs in during widespread emergency situations, coordination efforts could provide relief to pet owners in need.

“Typically, we just don’t have the space to do that,” said Pearson. “So, we’re not a site for evacuation. Now, if there were say a hurricane that came through or something like that we might work with county or emergency services to set up temporary cages or something like that in the community room, crates and things like that. We haven’t had to do that but it would have to be a very coordinate effort rather than just take them in if something happens.”

Andrew Fiumano, the group’s Director of Outreach & Humane Law Enforcement, recommends preparing a “go-bag” just for animals.

“You wanna make sure you have the basics they need to live,” Fiumano said.

He says putting these items in a sealed bucket will help keep everything in one place. He says the bucket should include at least three days’ worth of food and water, any medication your pet may need, a blanket, a collar with tags, a leash, bowls, a photo of you and your pet, veterinary records, and a pet first aid kit.

And, if you know your pet does not do well in situations with loud noises like thunder or fireworks, you can help by creating a safe space. Ashley Jeffrey Bouck is the CEO of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.

“That might be putting blankets over it so that they know there is a place for them to go or sometimes a thunder vest to keep them in a nice warm hug,” Bouck said. “So, there’s different things.”

And Fiumano reminds owners not to forget their pet’s favorite toy.

“It’s going to be stressful so being able to give them something that’s comforting is gonna go a long way,” Fiumano said.

Samantha joined the WAMC staff after interning during her final semester at the University at Albany. A Troy native, she looks forward to covering what matters most to those in her community. Aside from working, Samantha enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and cat. She can be reached by phone at (518)-465-5233 Ext. 211 or by email at ssimmons@wamc.org.