Animal programs

Your Pet Emergency Buddy System

In case of emergency or disaster, you have a friend! Or 2, or 3… having a buddy system to help with your pets can reduce stress and save lives.

Developing your own personal network of helpers, temporary escape or foster homes, and transportation resources is an essential part of preparedness planning. Start by making a list of neighbors, friends, and other reliable people who can help you evacuate your pets, equines, or barnyard livestock.

Create a column for people who can provide safe and secure temporary housing, and a column for those who can help with transportation. You need at least three options for each. A cardinal rule of security preparation is “Always have more than one plan for everything!” When it comes to your buddy system, that means having multiple people you can call on. You need backups for your backups!

These important personal “human resources” should be able to evacuate your animals if you are at work or on vacation or if you cannot get home in time. They can also be the buddies who watch over and care for your pets if you are sick, injured or hospitalized.

COVID or other infection issues complicate things. Make sure you have arrangements with caregivers who can come to your home safely and comfortably for both of you.

People with reduced mobility may need assistance with walking, getting into a car, lifting supplies, or managing pet crates. Do you need a driver? Your security network should be strong and cover all essential activities.

A strong Pet Buddy network includes people your pets are familiar with. Take the time to “practice” with your animal care companions. Spend time together, with your pets, feeding, walking, charging and playing in frequent training sessions.

COVID concerns have made it difficult to connect and maintain contact. Our pets have also been isolated. This adds to the importance of introducing animals and helpers BEFORE a crisis occurs. The pandemic may have caused some of your caregivers to limit their contact with you and others. Take the time to chat with all of your current emergency contacts. Update information. It’s always good to increase your resources.

Contact dog walking or riding groups, your homeowners association, members of your faith community. Make new friends with a common interest in the type of animals you share your life with.

Every situation we’ve covered can be applied to everyday activities… going to the vet, having visitors, going for a walk. Finally having that long-delayed knee surgery! The slightest injury can seriously affect your ability to move quickly with your animals or to resupply. This is when your buddy system is really your security system.

Emergencies affecting our animals do not always involve sudden injuries or extreme weather conditions. Every day, pets are subjected to trauma and abuse in homes with domestic violence.

Too often, fears of abandoning pets prevent adults and children from escaping violent environments. A support network is key to helping families — and their pets — get to safety.

If you know someone who has pets and is trying to get out of a dangerous household situation, be a friend and tell them about programs that can provide safe placement, shelter, or veterinary care.

Volunteers are a big part of a network of community animal buddies. Volunteer with a program that provides foster care and other support to pets, equines and other animals displaced by emergencies or disasters. Many organizations and agencies have pathways that connect volunteers to people who can use aids.

It all sounds so basic, and in many ways it is. Building a better and stronger animal emergency buddy network takes time, and more importantly, connectivity. But that means you have a friend – and your pets too – who will be by your side when you need them most.

For more information and preparation resources: HALTERproject.org

Learn more about resources, volunteer opportunities or support:

Local Community Health Organizations

Ruthless Kindness – ruthlesskindness.org

The Sonoma County Living Room – thelivingroomsc.org

Sonoma County Horse Council – sonomacountyhorsecouncil.org

Food for Thought Food Bank – fftfoodbank.org

Humane Society of Sonoma County – humanesocietysoco.org

Dogwood Animal Rescue – dogwoodanimalrescue.org

Local centers for the elderly