Often people complain that they can not take their animals into emergency shelters. As many persons become displaced from their homes during times of crisis and they are relocated in evacuation centers one of their major gripes is not being able to bring their pets with them. It is true that many times the mere act of having a pet nearby serves as a means of comfort to those in these emergency situations, unfortunately evacuation centers refuse to permit pets to accompany their owners. These are not just rules created out of whims or because certain groups do not like animals, they have specific reasons for being created. Evacuation centers refuse entrance to pets due to health and safety regulations. The pets which are kept at various human evacuation centers sometimes pose grave risks of disease or possible injury to the other shelter populace. Service animals which assist the disabled are currently the only animals which are permitted within the evacuation centers. The trend now is for creation of animal evacuation centers or foster homes which may accommodate these animals while their owners reside in the evacuation centers but these are fairly new ventures and it is extremely likely that they are not available everywhere.
Few people realize what the potential health risks are of housing animals and people in the same location. These close contacts between animals and humans in evacuation centers tend to pose increased risks for both injury and illness’. You have to keep in mind that a scared animal may present a greater possibility to bite their owners, other people, or pets located in the same center. One should keep in mind that these bits or injuries are sources of potential infection and provide a means of contacting potentially dangerous rabies. Those bits which are serious will certainly tax the limited medical facilities within the shelter. Additional problems develop with the necessary care associated with the animal such as urine and feces disposal. These tasks may be very difficult when in one of the public evacuation locations. People who are allergic to animals present another risk often encountered in shelters with animals present. Let’s keep in mind also that these risk increase since many of these people within the shelter do not have their normal medications present to take.
Contact with cats and dogs pose additional risks of contacting ringworm. The animal feces present provides for a greater chance of developing a diarrheal type illnesses, possible Salmonella outbreaks and some types of intestinal parasites. Granted the risks are small however in due of the natural disaster, the stress of the emergency and the potential for exposure to contaminated water and food the risk factors are increased. Usually reptiles are the prime source of Salmonella leaving children under the age of 5 years a higher chance of contacting the disease if they handle the reptiles. I hope this has cleared the air about keeping pets in public shelters. We all as survivors hate the thought of going to a public shelter in the event of a disaster however there are times when we may not be able to prevent it. In that cases please think about your actions in regards to your pets.