June is Disaster Preparedness for Pets month – but if you're a pet-care business professional it's always a good time to make sure you've got a plan in place to manage the needs of all the pets in your care when and if a disaster strikes.
Whether you live in a rural township that is sooner to flooding, hurricanes or snowstorms, or you live in a metropolitan area that is sooner to the above or may one day be a target of a man-made disaster, having a plan to help your clients and their pets is invaluable. Remember, you'll want a plan that encompasses all the types of animals you care for – including livestock!
If you're ready to create your own pet-disaster-preparedness plan – use these resources to create a plan custom-fitted for you and your clients:
o The Humane Society of the United States ( http://www.hsus.org ) has a myriad of resources, including brochures and a Disaster Center that can educate you on the best ways to prepare for a disaster.
o Your local Emergency Response Team can assist you in locating animal-friendly Shelters in case of evacuation. They will also be able to provide you with any and all requirements necessary to house animals in such a shelter. (In most cases pets will need to be crated and will need to bring copies of their immunization records).
Spend some time researching and then create a plan that will work for you and your clients' pets. Items to include in your plan:
o Maps for your sitters delineating which pets they are responsible for in case of an emergency;
o A waiver from your clients granting your company permission to transport their pets to the closest animal friendly shelter in case of evacuation;
o A waiver from your clients who do NOT want you to transport their pets in cases of disaster – letting you know that you are to leave their pets in place;
o Reminders for your clients to keep their pets' vet records taped in or near their crate. Additionally, each pet should have up to 2 weeks of food in air- tight containers and easily accessible water containers so that you can find everything when you need to move swiftly;
o An understanding with each client where they can be found if an evacuation takes place and cell phones are not operational. Many families have an agreed upon meeting place – make sure you know the 'meeting place' for each family you work with so you are able to find them when the roads become passable.
A disaster preparedness plan is surely something you hope you never have to use, but something that you must have to be a responsible pet-care business provider. Your clients will be grateful that you've gone the extra mile to ensure the safety and well-being of their pets.
Use your plan as a marketing tool. Once you've assembled your plan, why not write an article for the local paper about effective disaster preparationness for pets? How about offering a free tip- sheet on disaster-preparedness for pets for every potential new client who subscribes to your e-zine? Or, simply post your disaster preparedness tips on your website and offer it as a free article on the web – make sure you include a great resources box that gets folks to head to your website! Finally, you can expand your disaster preparedness research to create an offer a free seminar on the topic – either in conjunction with your local shelter, police and fire department or the local school.
However you position it – once you've done the homework – make sure you are providing a benefit to the largest amount of people. They will begin to immediately associate you as an expert. And the best clients always are willing to pay more money to work with the expert!