Protecting Animals During Severe Flooding

Time to prepare for an impending disaster is a luxury. Unanticipated natural disasters — such as flash floods — highlight the importance of making emergency plans for your staff and the animals in your care.

Thinking Ahead

In preparation for a natural disaster, identify several locations that might serve as evacuation sites for your patients. An evacuation location for a flood should be relatively close to your practice, but on higher ground. Just like you prepare emergency supply kits for your staff, make emergency supply kits for your patients and keep them readily on hand. Rather than creating individual kits for each potential patient, instead create general kits that are appropriate for each species that you treat. These kits should include food, widely used medications, syringes/needles, leashes/lead ropes/restraint tools, and so on.

Evacuation: Employees First, Patients Second

If evacuation is feasible, remove as many animals from the premises as possible. If your staff is transporting animals in vehicles, make sure that all patients are properly restrained so they aren’t injured during transport. Unfortunately, many emergencies don’t allow time for complete animal evacuation. Your first duty is to your employees, and human lives should always be prioritized above the lives of patients. Do not endanger yourself or your staff by reentering a severely flooded structure or attempting to drive a vehicle through high floodwaters.

When Evacuation Isn’t Possible

In the event that conditions are too treacherous to facilitate a full evacuation, your priority should be offering the animals their best chance at survival. If flooding is moderate, do your best to position all crated or caged animals above the waterline. This means not using ground-level cages or kennels, and penning animals in the highest possible area. If flooding is severe, your responsibility is to provide animals with the opportunity to fend for themselves. This means unlocking paddock or pen doors, and releasing small animal patients like dogs and cats from their cages so that they have the ability to swim and attempt to save themselves. This course of action should only be pursued in the event of severe, hurricane-level flooding that would result in any kenneled or caged patients drowning due to high water levels.