Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her onTwitter.
I must admit that it took a major disaster like Hurricane Sandy to inspire me to create a preparedness plan for my dogs, Mikey and Olive. When Sandy hit the Northeast, it was devastating to hear stories of pet parents who either left their pets behind in flooded homes, or worse, stayed home with their pets, putting the entire family at risk. Thankfully, my city allows pets at emergency shelters so pet owners didn’t have to make that choice.
It’s important to have a disaster plan for your pets, and what better way than to enlist your kids to help you create a plan and pet emergency kit.
Here are three tips as you start building a preparedness plan for your pet:
Keep an emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as a photo of your pet, vaccination records, water, pet food and medications. ASPCA experts suggest putting medical documents along with a photo of your pet in a Ziploc bag, and taping it to the pet carrier so it’s easy to locate when you need to evacuate quickly. It’s best to prepare a hard plastic pet carrier to carry in case of emergency. Your kids can help you put this kit together as you teach them about the importance of planning for a disaster.
Make sure your pets have collars and ID tags with up-to-date information. If you don’t have a collar or ID tags, take your kids to a local pet store (one that doesn’t sell puppies) and teach them about the importance of pets wearing ID tags in case they get lost. The ASPCA also recommends microchip as a more permanent form of ID, which can be your pet’s ticket home as long as you update your contact info if it changes.
Find out where you can take your pets in the event of evacuation. Some communities allow pets in emergency shelters, but others may not. Contact your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control to locate pet-friendly housing in your area.
The ASPCA recently launched its interactive mobile app, which is a great resource for disaster planning. The free app is available on iPhone and Android systems, and offers information to help pet parents protect their pets before and during disasters, as well as customized step-by-step instructions to find missing pets. The app also offers a place to safely store and update medical records for your pets. This handy tool is very easy to use and accessible as long as you have your phone. For more info and tips on disaster preparedness, visit www.aspca.org/mobileapp.
It’s often too late for pet parents to evacuate with their pets or pack essential items when they’re in a middle of a disaster, which is why it’s important to plan in advance so we don’t put ourselves and our pets in danger. My son is too young to truly understand the meaning of disaster preparedness, but he knows that helping mommy create an emergency kit is going to keep Mikey and Olive safe when we need to leave the house in a hurry.
Learning About Labels While shopping with my five-year-old nephew, Nicky, I was thoroughly entertained as I watched him pick up packages, look at the labels and sniff the produce as he tried to decide if a “new” fruit or vegetable might be something he would like. Together, we were learning more about Nicky’s preferences and dislikes. Occasionally I would make suggestions, though I always let him make the final decision. Watermelon, asparagus and celery (to smear with peanut butter and dot with raisins) are just a few “new” items that are now regulars in Nicky’s shopping cart. Equally interesting to me was the day in the car when Nicky, out of the blue, asked me if all vegetarian food items were organic. Clearly, this little shopper was paying attention as well as listening intently to adult conversations around him.
From the time he was walking and talking, Nicky and I have had conversations about animals, including farm animals. (Come to think of it, bouncing him on my lap and singing endless verses of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” was one of our earliest shared pastimes). Early on, I wanted Nicky to understand some of the basics about factory farming in an age-appropriate way. I believe that even toddlers have a right to know where their food comes from.
That’s how Nicky was first introduced to the idea of food labels, including “cage-free” and “grass-fed.” Since then, we’ve been able to talk about how only a few labels have government oversight to make sure they are legitimate, and what each of those labels ensures.
As Nicky began to ask questions, he was adding to his own food consumer vocabulary. He now understands in very simple terms the difference between “vegan” and “vegetarian.” He has also learned that while animals on “organic” farms may be better off than animals in factory farms, the term doesn’t necessarily mean the animals are treated as well as we would like. He is learning how animal products show up in things we might never expect, such as pork enzymes in Doritos. Nicky asks questions that range from whether Brussels sprouts will help him build strong bones and muscles, to whether a particular brand of chicken fingers came from a place where chickens were afraid or sick and weren’t allowed to see a doctor. All of these great questions will help him become a conscious consumer throughout his life.
Check back next week for part three of this blog series.
Guest blog by Lauren Martin, a proud mom of three cats, one bunny, one son and one daughter on the way. Lauren works in the Legal Department for the ASPCA, has published articles on animal law, and has taught animal law at St. John’s University School of Law.
After 11 months of nothing but babbling, one winter day my son looked at me and said, “Cat!” Not only was I thrilled to hear my son’s first word. but I was also proud of the word that he picked. Since my childhood, I have always valued animals and have treated them with dignity and respect. I have worked to ensure the humane treatment of animals throughout my adult life, ultimately working as an attorney at the ASPCA. When I learned that I was going to have a child, I knew that I wanted to instill that same love and respect for animals in my child that I hold so dear.
My son came home from the hospital to find that he had four “brothers and sisters” in the form of three loving cats and one adorable bunny. I wanted a love for animals to be a core part of my son’s values from the very beginning. From the start, I carefully introduced him to my animals and taught him to be gentle. I taught him not to pull the cats’ tails or ears, and I taught him not to chase our bunny (bunnies are at the bottom of the food chain, so being chased conjures some fearful thoughts!). But above all, I have tried to teach my son that animals matter. Together, we greet all of our animals each morning and give them love and attention each day. When my son and I take walks in our neighborhood, we are sure to give attention to all of the friendly dogs who are out taking walks, and in fact, my son often sits at our front window calling for Coco, our neighbors’ sweet Shih Tzu.
I believe that kindness to animals will never be something that my son needs to be taught as he gets older. It will be a core part of who he is as he journeys through his life, and I hope that the world will be a bit more humane because of him.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for over 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter, or Facebook.
As many families plan barbecues and Independence Day celebrations, pet parents should also include their furry friends in holiday plans. Between navigating a house filled with guests and booming fireworks going off outside, it is common for dogs to run away and for a pup’s escape to go unnoticed.
Here are some tips to safeguard your beloved pooch and enjoy a festive Fourth of July party:
Getting Lost: Loud fireworks scare many dogs, and festivities including visits from friends and family often create extra distractions for pet parents. It’s best to make plans for your dog before guests arrive. Try to keep him in a gated area where he can see people but cannot get out. If your dog is anxious, consider keeping him in a quiet but cool bedroom and make it a point to check on him regularly.
IDs, Please: For added insurance, ensure your pet is wearing proper identification tags that list their name, your name, your home address and phone number.
Avoiding Alcohol: Keep alcohol out of your dog’s reach. Ingesting alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing coma and even death in pets.
Prevent Burns: It’s not a good idea to give your dog (or your kids for that matter) free roam of the yard when the grill is on. Burns can happen in an instant.
Steer Clear of Fireworks: If your dog is afraid of fireworks, place them in a cool, closed room until the explosives are over. It may be helpful to play soothing music for your pet during the fireworks display. If you’re traveling to view fireworks elsewhere, it’s best to leave your pets at home.
Poisonous Products: Keep matches, citronella candles, bug sprays, sunscreens and lighter fluid out of your dog’s reach. These products can all cause serious health problems for your pup.
In this blog series, Sharon Discorfano, Esq.,a Government Relations Intern at the ASPCA, will discuss her experiences with helping her nephew make food choices for better health and animal welfare. For more information about Sharon’s animal-related projects, please visit sharondiscorfano.com or follow her on Twitter @shadisco.
My seven-year-old nephew, Nicky, is quite the fussy eater. Until a couple of years ago, I’m pretty sure he would have chosen to live on French fries, corn, and Grandma’s pasta and meatballs. He’ll eat a basic green salad with tomatoes at dinnertime, but is suspicious of any variations. Motivating him to take a more adventurous approach to food took strategy and sustained effort. As a former teacher who is now immersed in the world of animal welfare, I took on the task of helping Nicky make better choices for his own health as well as for the health of animals. I’m excited to share with you some of the things that have proven as fun as they were successful.
A Trip to the Grocery Store
It all started a couple of years ago with a trip to Trader Joe’s, the first of what has now become a regular thing for us to do together. Kid-sized shopping carts made it all the more of an adventure to Nicky. I handed him a five-dollar bill and set up the rules: one fruit, one vegetable, and something new. He went for familiar items first: corn and some cantaloupe—one of the few fruits he likes. “Something new” was a bit of challenge, but he settled on some Ritz-type crackers.
The following week, Nicky wanted to go shopping again. He wanted to get the crackers again, so we expanded his budget. Green grapes went into the cart along with cantaloupe cubes. For “something new,” Nicky surprised me when he gravitated towards a package of veggie dogs, which he recognized as something he’d seen in my own refrigerator. As finicky as he is, I envisioned Nicky taking one bite and making a puckered face. But Nicky’s reaction after the first bite: a big nod and, “Delicious!” Nicky now asks for a veggie dog whenever hot dogs are for dinner, and his family now keeps them in the fridge.
Two Cooks in the Kitchen
Nicky and I like to cook and bake together. These have become precious times to me—the conversations we have while we’re getting our hands messy range from school projects to the relationship between lightning and a clap of thunder. It’s as much about trying recipes together, and chatting as we do, as it is about the final result on the table. Recently, I stumbled upon a ridiculously sinful recipe: brownie cupcakes that each contained two stacked Oreos, stuck together with peanut butter. The individual ingredients were all things Nicky had tried and liked; the recipe consisted of just a few steps, easy enough to follow and not too time-consuming; and the idea of us both with fingers so sticky with brownie mix and peanut butter was too much to resist. These were not exactly healthy, but certainly worthy as an extra-special dessert. The brownies are long gone, but the memory of our baking activity is a keeper.
Check back next week for part two of this blog series.