Many humane professionals have expressed concerns over the years that buying a pet as a gift is risky for the pet. New research from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says gift pets are no more likely than individually chosen pets to make a good match for their owners. In fact, shelter statistics nation-wide are evidence that Americans are committed to the best of animal care for all of our companions with fur, feathers or fins. Less than 3% of pets in the US ever see the inside of a shelter each year. They are evenly divided between relinquished pets and strays and the stray dogs are reclaimed by owners who never intended to be separated in the first place at a pretty high rate.

So with that good news, if you are one of many households with a new family member after the holidays, it’s time to work your pet into your family preparedness plan. You can find the basics at ( and  Red Cross ( But you might not know what documents and training your pet needs to be truly ready.

Pets should be gradually accustomed to staying in a pet cage or crate even if you never plan to use one. Pets have to be confined at a veterinarian’s office, an emergency shelter or hotel, and possibly in the car. Why not practice so your pet will be used to this in the event of an emergency? Your veterinary technician or pet trainer can help you make a plan that involves the whole family. Kids with some instruction really make great pet trainers.

The documents you should prepare for your pet’s go kit of food, water and a toy (medication if needed) will be species specific. Pets should always have a veterinary health certificate and these are usually good for 6 months to one year. If your pet is vaccinated for communicable diseases (especially communicable to humans), keep receipts or certificates for those treatments. If you are not sure which vaccinations are important, copy a list of all of them. Keep paperwork in waterproof containers, just in case. You should also keep an up to date picture of your pet and think of safe ways to identify your pet, should you become separated. Identification tags, tattoos and microchips are great. Horse owners braid tags into their horse’s mane or tail and livestock owners just paint their phone numbers directly onto their animals with food safe inks and dyes.

Recent disasters in Texas and California provided plenty of visuals of pets left behind or released as a last resort. A plan of action can save you and your pet from ever facing these most difficult decisions when you have no time to think of options. A prepared pet is a safe one!

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