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October 14, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Society: I feel the earth move under my feet...

Ohlone Humane Society: I feel the earth move under my feet...

By Nancy Lyon

There has been a storm of small earthquakes in Central California this past week - as of October 7, there have been 435 recorded according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). They state that these micro-swarms are not all that unusual... however, sitting in my home office I can hear the walls and bookcases quietly groan and the ground bump ever so slightly. We live only a few blocks from the long overdue and dangerous Hayward Fault and the awareness of its potential lingers. And then there's the San Andreas, Calaveras and Rogers Creek faults that are just a geological hop, skip and a jump away. Yikes!

With recent devastating global earthquakes in Samoa and Indonesia, the USGS states that it may suggest that there may be a significant subsurface disturbance taking place beneath the Pacific. Whether there is a connection between California micro-quakes and the larger ones occurring on the so called Pacific Ocean "Ring of Fire" which includes our coast is unknown. USGS maps show that the Earth is seriously on the move and that she may be getting ready to shake off a few pesky human fleas.

It has gotten my attention and I hope yours too. So, assuming you are informed on how to protect yourself and your human family, it's time to evaluate precautions we need to take to help guard the members of our animal family.

Here's a crash course in the basics of protecting your critters in case of a serious earthquake or other disaster:

Earthquake Safety 101:


Before disaster hits:

Get to know your neighbors and develop a "buddy system". Ask a neighbor to check on your companion animals after a quake if you are not home. Your animals should know and be comfortable with this person before the fact. Offer to do the same for their animals.

Arrange temporary housing for your companion animals with neighbors or friends if your house becomes uninhabitable. Most human disaster-relief shelters won't admit animals, some may help you to find shelter for them but it will probably be low priority as they will be under great pressure. Keep an up-to-date list of veterinarians, kennels, and groomers that might be able to board them on short notice. Check for local motels/hotels that will take companion animals, those that don't may make an exception in an emergency situation.

Accustom your animals to portable kennels or other suitable pens, and keep one for each. You may need them for temporary quarters. For a multiple cat household, consider purchasing soft carriers as an alternative to crates as they take less room in a car. Pack a blanket, favorite toy, and a small garment with your scent on it, and paper towels for cleanups

Have a harness and leash for all dogs. Frightened dogs may pull out of a regular collar. Accustom them to the harness before the fact. Keep extras in your car.

Keep a first-aid pamphlet available and a kit with first-aid supplies. Check with your veterinarian on what should go into your kit. Better yet, take a class that teaches emergency aid for injured companion animals, it may save his or her life.

If your animal is on continuing medication, talk to your veterinarian about keeping a backup supply and how to store it during an emergency. Have at least a week's supply of their regular food; store in an airtight/waterproof container. Rotate often. Include a supply of favorite treats to keep animals occupied if they must be confined. Try to follow your regular feeding schedule as this helps relieve stress and digestive upset.

Keep at least a week's supply of gallon containers of bottled water for each animal; store in a cool place, out of the sun. Rotate often. If you are instructed to boil tap water, it means it is also unsafe for your animals to drink.


During and after:

Don't try to hold your animal friend during a quake. Animals instinctively want to hide when their safety is threatened. If you get in the way, even the nicest but frightened animal may bite or scratch you out of fear. Comfort them normally after they have calmed.

Whenever possible do not get separated. If you must evacuate do not leave your animals behind. The chances of them surviving are greatly decreased if you do. If you are forced to leave them, post signs on your front and back doors alerting rescue workers that animals are in your home or on your property. List the type and name of your animals.

If you can't find your companion animal or are forced to leave her (know your rights) at home after a quake or other disaster, leave fresh water in non-spill containers such as bath tubs and sinks; plenty of low-fat dry food, which deteriorates more slowly, and is less tasty so animals are less inclined to try and eat it all at once. Leave a note indicating you have an animal and his name, where you will be, several contact phone numbers - an out-of-area contact number in case local lines are down, and the date.


The unthinkable - getting separated:

Always make sure your companion animal is wearing identification with a current phone number and address. Even on your inside cat, keep them on a breakaway collar. Keep a supply of tags you can write on in case you are evacuated.

Think about micro-chipping your critter as added ID insurance. This is very important because if your animal companion is relocated out of your immediate area there is a greater chance of a reunion if he has been chipped. Many shelters have universal chip readers that can read more than one brand.

Have several close-up photos of your animal with your important papers. They should show any special identifying marks. Store pictures in a ziplock bag to protect them from the elements. This will help identify him if he escapes after a quake.

Keep vaccinations current including rabies, with copies of immunization records in an emergency kit. If your animal bites someone, it may prevent him from being impounded.


Are we ready?

On October 6, 2006 the federal government passed into law the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act. This legislation mandates provisions for animals in evacuation plans. Consequently, evacuation and sheltering plans will need to accommodate people and their animals to ensure orderly and timely evacuation in a disaster. It will help fund procuring, constructing or renovating emergency shelter facilities and materials to accommodate people with companion/service animals.


Maybe it's a sign that the radio is just now playing "I feel the Earth move under my feet"...spooky. Mother Earth's clock is ticking.

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