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Pet First Aid Awareness Month

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A large disaster or local emergency has the potential to affect the entire family. That often means that our furry friends or, if you live in the country, one or more large barnyard animals, may face risk right alongside. To help ensure the safety of your entire family unit, including those who are furry or feathered, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared.

The American Red Cross has developed a free app that is proving useful to animal lovers across the country. Available through “American Red Cross” in your app store, or by going to redcross.org/apps, this app provides loads of information about pet safety in the event of evacuations and in situations where you may need to provide emergency care until veterinary assistance is available. It also offers details related to the steps you can take in advance of a potential disaster.

The Pet First Aid app has been downloaded more than 170,000 times and has earned numerous accolades since its launch three years ago. It reached the #2 spot in iPhone’s “Apps for Pet Parents” and was named as one of “8 Cool Tools for Gadget-Loving Pet People” by Good Housekeeping magazine. And – most importantly – it is free to download.

When you use the app, you will find:

• Pet safety preparedness tips

• “Step-by-step” and “how-to” videos

• An ability to toggle between cat and dog content

• An emergency animal hospital locator

• Custom profiles that can help track your pet’s health history

• A pet-friendly hotel locator, which can turn out to be very important since Red Cross shelters often cannot accommodate pets in an emergency due to human health issues

Animal experts advise pet owners to make a “go bag” for their pets, in much the same way they do for themselves. A pet crate can be used as a storage unit for emergency evacuation items such as pet food, a manual can opener, kitty litter, trays, toys, water, a blanket, leashes, pet medications, a copy of veterinary records and one or more photographs or you and your pet.

This last item could turn out to be critical if you and your pet become separated. A well-meaning individual may find your lost pet and take it home, and a photo can help you prove that your pet belongs to you – especially if a collar gets lost in the process.

There are other many ways in which you can prepare beyond your pet’s “go bag.”

CPR classes are available for pets. You can learn how to identify signs of pet heat stroke. And you can learn what to do if your pet is stung or bitten by a venomous animal or insect.

Easiest of all, you can write down and keep safe the numbers of your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office. It’s possible that you may need to board your pet, and knowing where pet boarding facilities are located can save you time when time is of the essence. To make your list, research both close-proximity facilities and those outside of your local area just in case local facilities are closed due to a neighborhood emergency.

Jerilee Drynan, director of operations for the Three Rivers Humane Society in Central Oregon, advises people to get their pet micro chipped. “This is probably the most important thing you can do,” she says. “Black labs can look a lot alike. If your pet has a microchip that says it belongs to you, it belongs to you.”

“I also advise people to set up pet sitting agreements with people they know and trust,” Drynan added.  “It’s important to have someone lined up who can watch your animals if you need help. This is important because some facilities won’t let you bring your pet inside if you are evacuating from your home.”

Preparing ahead will help you avoid leaving your pet behind in the event of a crisis – something you won’t want to do if you can absolutely help it. Remember: Pets will have a hard time surviving on their own if you’re not there to take care of them, and you may not be able to find them again when you return.

A disaster is almost certain to be stressful, but it can be easier to manage if your pet is safe and comfortable and you have pet peace of mind.

Or, as Drynan, one of Oregon’s top lost animal experts, says, “You can’t always plan for an exact emergency, but you can plan for the consequences of an emergency.”