Fire in the sky: How pet-prepared are you for emergencies?


With Metro Vancouver and much of B.C. covered with a thick haze of forest fire smoke, the BC SPCA is encouraging animal guardians to refresh their emergency pet preparedness. Several new wildfires, as well as old ones, have caused evacuation orders and states of emergency in several B.C. communities, prompting people to leave their homes as quickly as possible.

“When you’re ordered to evacuate, you need to do it as soon as possible, and people don’t necessarily think about their pet in an emergency situation until it’s too late,” says BC SPCA general manager of community relations Lorie Chortyk. “You don’t have time to gather up everything you need if you have to get out of your home right away.”

Evacuations are usually a busy time for staff and volunteers at the province’s BC SPCA branches, as they provide extra shelter, pet food and pet-related equipment such as crates and leashes for pet guardians and animals.

 “When you’re in a hurry, it can be easy to forgot feeding bowls, food, leashes, everything,” Chortyk says. “That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for any emergency. People love their pets, but it often doesn’t sink in that an emergency can happen at any time.”

Having an emergency pet kit handy is key, as well as ensuring your pet is already wearing a collar with up-to-date contact information, Chortyk notes. Keeping your pets inside the house so you don’t need to search for them is also a good idea, as is having emergency pet boarding plans in place.

Items to include in an emergency kit for your pet(s) include:

  • A seven-day supply of food and water
  • Identification tag and collar
  • Sturdy crate and/or carrier
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Blanket/plastic bags
  • Leash, harness
  • Food and water bowls (collapsible are great)
  • Litter box and litter for cats
  • Manual can opener
  • Copy of your pet’s current vaccination history
  • Any special medications and instructions

“No one likes to think an emergency like a wildfire or an earthquake will happen. But in the event it does, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared – for themselves and for their beloved family pets,” Chortyk says.

When dealing with livestock in the event of an emergency, the Horse Council of British Columbia and provincial government offer many helpful tips and advice as well.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

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If a dog is injured in a car crash, does insurance cover vet costs?

Insurance companies treat your lap dog like a laptop. If man’s best friend is hurt in a collision, he’s considered damaged property.

“It sounds cold, but in the eyes of the law, your dog is your property — if you get hit carrying an expensive vase, you expect the vase to be covered” says State Farm Canada spokesman John Bordignon. “If the driver is 100 per cent at fault, then the driver’s auto insurance would cover the dog’s injuries.”

Pets medical expenses aren’t covered the same way peoples’ are. But, if a pet is killed or injured by a car, you can make a liability claim against the other driver’s policy to cover the expenses, the same way you’d make a claim for other property damage, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada (ICB).

“The success of the liability claim and possible damages the pet owner may be able to recover, would likely be based on negligence,” writes IBC spokesman Pete Karageorgos in an email. “For example, was the dog on a leash or was it running freely when struck by the vehicle?”

In other words, you could get less — or nothing at all — if your dog darts out into traffic.

If you’re driving with your pet

What if Rover’s in your car and you get into a crash? Generally, the same rules apply — you could try to make a liability claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance.

In Ontario, your vet bills could also be covered under your own policy’s direct compensation property damage coverage, Karageorgos says. It’s required in Ontario and covers damage to your vehicle — and its contents — if the other driver was at fault for the accident.

If the insurance company decides you’re entirely at fault, then your car insurance policy won’t help you pay your vet bills. And the other driver’s insurance won’t either.

If you are at fault, it’s still possible your homeowner’s insurance could cover some vet or replacement costs, says State Farm Canada’s Bordignon.

“You have to look at your homeowners insurance — it can get a little complicated,” he says. “Call your agent and say “I have this dog, what will happen if he gets hit?”

You’ll notice we’re using the word could. That’s because insurance policies vary. Rules vary from province to province. And no two collisions are exactly the same.

In B.C., you can’t make a claim for pet injuries if you’re at fault in an accident, says the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).

“However, if another motorist is at fault for the crash, then you may have the basis for a third-party tort claim against the at-fault motorist, in which you could try to recover your expenses to cover the pet’s vet and medication bills due to the car crash,” writes ICBC spokesman Adam Grossman in an email. “The same would apply if your pet was inside or outside your vehicle.”

Is Pet Insurance worth it?

Medical bills for a dog needing surgery after a car crash can cost $5,000 to $10,000 — or even more, says the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Dr. Bernhard Pukay.

“Just the first 24 hours can be $800 to $1,000, easily,” says Pukay, who’s also an unpaid advisor for Petsecure pet insurance. “You’ve got x-rays, blood work, lab work — it’s the same equipment and procedures that get used on people and the cost is about the same.”

A liability case may not get you all of that money back, and it could take months — or even years — before you see a penny.

If you have pet insurance, medical expenses will be covered — usually up to a limit — if your pet is injured in a collision, regardless of who was at fault.

“Our polices cover all veterinary costs associated with an accident up to the limit of the plan,” says Loraine Nyokong, director of sales with Petsecure. “Under comprehensive coverage we cover surgery and things like physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment and massage.”

Pet insurance can range from $20 to $120 a month, depending on the coverage, breed and where you live, Nyokong says.

Bur even with pet insurance, you’ll still likely have to pay bills up front. In most cases, owners pay vet bills and then get reimbursed, Nyokong says.

“Our target is five to seven days,” she says. “In peak times it can be 10 to 15 days.”

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