Epidemiologic features of pet evacuation failure in a rapid-onset disaster

Sebastian E. Heath Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907- 1243.
Present address is United States Agency for International Development, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20523.

Search for other papers by Sebastian E. Heath in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 VetMB, PhD, DACVIM, DACVPM
,
Susan K. Voeks Humane Society of Waupaca County, PO Box 145, Waupaca, WI 54981.

Search for other papers by Susan K. Voeks in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 PhD
, and
Larry T. Glickman Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907- 1243.

Search for other papers by Larry T. Glickman in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
 VMD, DrPh

Abstract

Objective—To describe epidemiologic features of pet evacuation failure after a hazardous chemical spill in which residents had no warning and only a few hours notice to evacuate.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—Pet-owning households that evacuated from a hazardous chemical spill with (n = 119) or without (122) their pets.

Procedures—Evacuees were surveyed by mail.

Results—261 of 433 (60.3%) dogs and cats in 241 households were not evacuated. Of the 241 households, 119 (49.4%) evacuated with their pets, 98 (40.7%) evacuated without them but later attempted to rescue them, and 24 (10.0%) neither evacuated their pets nor attempted to rescue them. Pet evacuation failure was most common in households that thought the evacuated area was safe for pets. Risk of pet evacuation failure increased in households with many animals, low pet attachment and commitment scores, and low levels of preparedness. Cat evacuation failure was associated with not having cat carriers. Nearly 80% of households that evacuated with their pets found accommodation with friends and family.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Pet evacuation failure was common and jeopardized pets' health and well-being. Logistical challenges to transporting pets were substantial contributors to pet evacuation failure, whereas not knowing where to house a pet was only a minor concern. Most pet owners seemed self-reliant and acted appropriately towards their pets. Such self-reliant behavior by pet owners should be encouraged prior to disasters as part of an evacuation plan for households. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001; 218:1898–1904)

Abstract

Objective—To describe epidemiologic features of pet evacuation failure after a hazardous chemical spill in which residents had no warning and only a few hours notice to evacuate.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—Pet-owning households that evacuated from a hazardous chemical spill with (n = 119) or without (122) their pets.

Procedures—Evacuees were surveyed by mail.

Results—261 of 433 (60.3%) dogs and cats in 241 households were not evacuated. Of the 241 households, 119 (49.4%) evacuated with their pets, 98 (40.7%) evacuated without them but later attempted to rescue them, and 24 (10.0%) neither evacuated their pets nor attempted to rescue them. Pet evacuation failure was most common in households that thought the evacuated area was safe for pets. Risk of pet evacuation failure increased in households with many animals, low pet attachment and commitment scores, and low levels of preparedness. Cat evacuation failure was associated with not having cat carriers. Nearly 80% of households that evacuated with their pets found accommodation with friends and family.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Pet evacuation failure was common and jeopardized pets' health and well-being. Logistical challenges to transporting pets were substantial contributors to pet evacuation failure, whereas not knowing where to house a pet was only a minor concern. Most pet owners seemed self-reliant and acted appropriately towards their pets. Such self-reliant behavior by pet owners should be encouraged prior to disasters as part of an evacuation plan for households. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001; 218:1898–1904)

Advertisement