Manhattan Good Neighbors, a student program that focuses on fostering development with neighborhoods surrounding the K-State campus, held Pet Preparedness yesterday, in accordance with National Preparedness Month. The event aimed at encouraging pet owners to ensure they are prepared in times of disaster and was hosted as part of America’s PreparAthon!, a program that gives communities and organizations the opportunity to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussion and exercises.
According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of American households, about 82.5 millions homes, own pets, making them an integral part of the family.
The event was attended by representatives from state and local governments, the private sector and the Veterinary Health Center at K-State.
“(During disasters) people are displaced from their home as well as pets, and it’s very emotionally trying for people, so having their pets there is comforting and takes down some of the anxiety,” said Dr. Susan Nelson, veterinarian at the center, which offers primary care for pets in the community and surrounding areas. “Sometimes it’s the only thing they have that’s a semblance of their home life besides their family members.”
Laurie Harrison, emergency management coordinator for the Riley County Emergency Management Agency, said the agency had focused a lot on emergency preparedness for people but there had been a lack of focus on pets.
“This event allows us to bring that (pet preparedness) to the forefront and to help people prepare for their pet in case of a disaster or emergency,” Harrison said.
Harrison said in her experience as a first responder, people are reluctant to leave their homes if they do not have a place for their pets to stay in.
“In an ice storm we had in 2007, we had people without electricity who were cold but would not leave their homes because they had an animal and they had nowhere for that animal to go,” Harrison said.
She said with the amount of time people spend with their pets, it was important to educate people on the importance of forward thinking when it comes to taking care of pets and preparing for emergency situations.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s disaster preparedness program uses Fred, their German shepherd mascot to illustrate how pet owners can ensure that they are adequately prepared to care for pets in times of disaster.
“We demonstrate the purple backpack that he’s wearing and the stuff that’s in there – extra food, water, toys, first aid kit and flashlight to show people how to prepare a disaster kit,” said Michael McNulty, director of homeland security operations at the Kansas department of Health and Environment, who also handles Fred the Preparedness dog.
Nelson said it was important for students and the people in the Manhattan community to be aware of the needs of their pets. She said using all the resources available and staying prepared would make dealing with the impact of any potential disaster easier.
Lynda Bachelor, project coordinator for HandsOn K-State, said Pet Preparedness aimed to educate people about the necessity of being prepared to take care of their pets during natural and man-made disasters.
“Katrina and Sandy, those two hurricanes brought to how pets are a very close part of people’s personal well-being and health,” she said. “When you’re in danger and they’re a part of you, how do you take care of them as well.”