Planning for the unexpected

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We are a country of planners. We take many precautions when planning for our future. Most of us have more insurance than we will ever need. We leave emergency contact information with our employer in case we are ever in an accident. But have we included our pets in our plans? Sadly, most of us will answer that question with a resounding NO. In the wake of the recent hurricanes and flooding, everyone was reminded of the importance of having an evacuation plan for animals in the event of a natural disaster. However, many of us do not have a plan for the "everyday" kind of emergency that could strike at any time without warning. What happens to your pets if you are in an accident? Will your animals be safe if you are unable to return home due to a family emergency out-of-town? What if your dogs get out of the backyard because the fence gate was left open? There are some simple steps that can help you prepare for these unexpected absences.

1. Keep emergency contact information in your wallet. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel are going to check for identification if you are unable to provide them information on who you are. Keep a note behind your driver's license with who to contact if you are in an accident. Make sure these contacts know you have pets and have the proper information to access and care for your beloved animal.

2. Develop a relationship with a trusted neighbor, friend or family member that can care for your pets if there is an unexpected circumstance. This could be important even if you are gone several extra hours than normal. Many of us have pets that are on important medication and getting that medication late could be disastrous. Practice this routine with your neighbor several times to make sure your pets, and your neighbor, are comfortable and have all the information to care for your pet safely.

3. Keep a pet file. It is a good idea to make sure your neighbor has information on how to locate your veterinarian, what type of food they eat (including amount and frequency), and all medical conditions and prescribed medication information, including allergies. Do not forget to make sure they have access to your home and know where all your pet's supplies are located.

4. Keep your pet's vaccinations current at all times. In the event you must be away for several days or weeks, your pet can be boarded without having to take a trip to the veterinarian. Check out boarding facilities ahead of time to ensure you are comfortable with the accommodations, services and the rates. It is good idea to set up an account with them so they have your pet's information ahead of time and make for an easy "check-in". Keep this information in a location that is easy for your neighbor to locate.

5. Keep your pet's identification current at all time. Most of us have microchipped our pet. However, that microchip does not do any good if the information associated with it is out-of-date. Keeping current tags on your pet is also important. Unfortunately, not every microchip scanner works with every microchip. Keeping your contact information plus emergency contact information on an external tag is critical. These steps will help increase your pet's chances of a safe return in the event it gets lost.

6. Keep a current photograph of your pet. If you pet gets out you will want to get posters up in your neighborhood and at local veterinary clinics and animal shelters. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words and a current photo will be much more helpful than a written description when trying to locate your pet.

Taking some precautions and developing a plan with a friend or neighbor will help make sure your pets are well taken care of if you are unexpectedly unavailable. Communicating your wishes will provide peace of mind for those left to assist you because they will know what to do. While I hope that none of us face these situations, it is a good idea to take some simple steps to prepare in case they do.