Be Prepared for Your Service Animal!
By Gina Burnet
Ahead of time you can make sure your local authorities, particularly the fire department and EMTs, are notified of your disability and your service dog. Firehouses usually love visitors who call ahead and bring something yummy. It helps the response teams be aware of your service animal and it also helps your dog acclimate to the strange sights and smells of a fireman in uniform. Many EMTs will vouch for a familiar service dog at the ER door and help bypass the potential hassle of getting the dog admitted with you.
Call and notify your local Emergency Information Management office that you have a service dog and that he is not to be separated from you. Request to be added to their disability registry. Then notify each emergency response department and ask that they “tag” your address as having a service dog on site.
In the event of an emergency evacuation with rare exceptions, animals can’t be rescued. Not even service dogs. Emergency responders as a rule cannot risk the safety of humans by bringing on animals of unknown training. If a group is sheltering together, dogs barking, fighting, begging for food, or wandering unattended is a danger to humans. Pet allergies are common and can be severe. There may not be enough medical care to be able to respond.
So here is the tricky part: the owner of the animal must have an emergency plan in place to protect them as best as possible. Sometimes an emergency happens so quickly a safety plan cannot be used. It’s a tragedy that breaks our hearts but may happen.
There are several options to protect your animals. Sheltering in place is sometimes an option depending on the emergency. Evacuating by a private vehicle may increase the chances of protecting you and your dog, again depending on the emergency. You would need to have a place to go that would accept both of you. The arrangements should be made in advance. In the event of helicopter rescue the dog and wheelchair might have to be left behind.
Plan for transportable bowl, food and water in the vent you can get out with your dog. Take any paperwork for vaccinations, medicine, service dog gear like vest, harness and leash, clean up bags and perhaps a favorite toy if it will fit into the kit.
Make a plan to protect your helper and check it monthly. They work hard. Work hard for them too!