By Sari Reis
A few weeks ago I was involved in a situation that still has me reeling. It involved a friend of mine who was caring for a couple of dogs. He is 72 years old and in good health. I had been calling him daily as one of the dogs in his care was a foster animal I placed with him.
Since my friend lives alone and is retired, he usually answers my calls or returns my messages fairly quickly. When I hadn’t heard back from him for a couple of days, I got worried and went to his home. Long story short, I found out when I called 911 that he had been rushed to the hospital two days before. The dogs were in the house barking. Apparently, no one had done anything about caring for them when my friend was removed from the home.
I was told by the police that normal protocol is to contact animal services when the pet owner is taken away and there are animals in the house. This obviously was not done. I called animal services and they couldn’t do anything for at least another 36 hours. I called the hospital to check on my friend and was told he was in ICU in critical care. I couldn’t get any more information as I am not family. I told them about the dogs but they couldn’t give me his house keys, since I was not related. So now the dogs have been in the house alone for over 48 hours with no food, no water and no human care.
Since I couldn’t get any help from the authorities, I took matters into my own hands and figured out how to gain access to the dogs. When I finally reached them, I gave them food, water and some TLC. They were frazzled but happy to have care and I placed them with a friend who is fostering them.
I realized that this situation could happen to any pet parent who lives alone, so I came up with some essential measures you can take to ensure your pets are cared for in an emergency such as this.
- Make a written agreement with someone you trust to take care of your pets in an emergency. Be sure that person’s name and their contact information is displayed somewhere in your home where first responders can see it. Make sure that person has a key to your home.
- Hide a key somewhere on your property.
- If you are elderly or have any health issues, make arrangements for a friend to contact you every day and if you don’t respond, they will come to your home. That person should also have a key or know where one is hidden.
- Keep a card in your wallet stating you have pets at home and to contact the person named in an emergency.
My friend is still in the hospital and will probably be there for a while. If I hadn’t taken matters into my own hands, I shudder to think what might have happened. Please be prepared.
—Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information you can contact her at 760-644-0289 or MissionValleyPetsitting.com.