Whether you love or just tolerate your pet, now is the time to consider what you will do with them when you are facing an emergency situation. It is irresponsible to leave a pet behind except in the direst of circumstances. (And, by the way, your convenience is never a dire circumstance.) So, you need to formulate a plan. You need to decide now, how you will handle it.
Unfortunately, most pets, except some dogs and a few other animals, increase your problems during an emergency situation. But if you leave them behind to fend for themselves, a domesticated animal, like a pet dog, will probably either starve, become injured and die a horrible death, or join a pack and become dangerous to people, especially children.
On the other hand, if you take them with you, then you will need to feed and care for them. This can make evacuation more difficult, but it is a responsibility of ownership to care for your pet during both times of ease and periods of hardship. A medium-to-large size dog can be trained to carry a saddlebag backpack so that they can carry enough food and water for two days.
As mentioned earlier in this book, when facing a disaster or emergency situation, don’t plan on leaving your animal at your favorite pet boarding kennel, veterinarian, animal care services center, or with a family member or friend, either. You are just handing off your problem to them, and that isn’t fair. You can’t shirk your responsibility.
Furthermore, in the U.S., if you take your pet with you to a federal or State sponsored shelter, they will separate you from your pet, and though they may not tell you, the official protocol calls for euthanasia. They will kill your pet. Do you think I must be wrong? Read the confidential (but not Classified) U.S. Government document, FM-39.40 Internment and Resettlement Operations.” Of course, you may encounter a shelter operator who loves animals and ignores this directive, but are you willing to gamble with your pet’s life?
So, what are your options? In my view, you have three choices.
- Either keep your pet with you and stockpile/carry the food and water they will need, and hope for the best; or,
- When that time comes, humanely euthanize your pet(s); or
- If your pet is a dog, turn them into an asset. These benefits are enjoyed today, and you will be ready to face tomorrow with your loyal companion as a valuable partner.
Unfortunately, the third choice is not available to owners of cats and most other pets, but it is a great option if your pet is a healthy dog. If you’re up for 20-minutes of training 3-days a week for four months, Option #3 is the best choice. I heartily recommend it.
In any case, we can’t avoid facing the truth. Dogs tend to be either a security problem or a security asset, and they require extra work and supplies that may be difficult to provide.
Today, if you unleash your dog and it runs off, or it barks without sufficient provocation, the animal represents a security risk. This problem is most glaring with yappy little dogs. During an emergency, a barking dog attracts attention and miscreants do not perceive small dogs to be a threat, so the animal generates dangerous, unnecessary risks to you, the owner. Importantly, the unwelcomed attention may make you a victim of a crime. No one likes yappy dogs, including violent criminals.
When we asked a FEMA dog trainer, “Why are little dogs so often barkers?” Her answer, “Because their owners allow it.”
Yes, a barking dog may be an unrivaled asset, but only if you are the one controlling that response. A well-trained dog that barks in accord with your training can provide valuable early warning, but a dog that indiscriminately barks may create added risks for you and your companions.
A dog’s fine-tuned hearing and sense of smell can provide far better early warning than can the most sophisticated electronic alarm system. But, these amazing attributes are only helpful if the animal is properly trained.
Unfortunately, most people do not know how to turn their pet into a service dog; an asset which can be valuable during ordinary times as well as during a crisis. Thankfully, this lack of knowledge can be overcome.
The first step in transforming your dog from liability to asset is obedience training. Yes, it is easier to train a young dog than an old one, but both can be taught if you are patient and know what you are doing. You need to teach your dog to not bark without provocation and to obey immediately. Basic training must include both voice and signal commands for: heel, come, stay, down, growl, bark, and silence.
Once these problem-erasing basics have been handled, you are ready to start transforming your dog into a working-dog asset, a partner. This will require the professional help of an experienced dog trainer who has done this for the government or a private security agency. Or, use the online training offered by a company such as Remnant K9 (www.remnantcanine360.com.)
An ordinary dog trainer cannot take the place of one who has extensive experience in the behavior you are trying to model. My recommendation is to not waste time with YouTube videos produced by self-promoting people without serious credentials, nor kindly dog-trainers who are well-meaning but lack the specific skills necessary for this task. If you don’t have access to such a trainer or can’t afford to hire one, use an online training program such as Remnant K9 360.
Use an expert. In the long run, you will not only save time and money, but you will also be far more successful.
Whether evacuating due to an emergency, or living at your safe-haven retreat location, or leaving a place of safety to help a friend or family member who is in need, don’t discount the benefits that a well-trained dog can provide. If you live in a place where you cannot carry a gun, a well-trained medium or large-size dog that is properly trained can be both a reliable low-tech security system and a source of unparalleled defense. Even if you do have a gun and know how to use it, a dog can still be an indispensable partner.