How ironic. September is National Preparedness Month, and my neck of the woods has just been through one of the worst natural disasters that I’ve ever witnessed. I’m talking about the floods that have ravaged parts of the foothills and Front Range of Colorado. As I’m writing, Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters are buzzing over my home on their way to and from plucking survivors off of hillsides and dropping provisions to those who are still stranded.

Spare a moment if you would to keep the many people and pets who have been affected by this disaster in your thoughts. Eight people have been confirmed dead, with 581 still missing. The hope is that most of these folks are simply unable to contact emergency personnel, friends, and family what with roads being washed away to bedrock and cell and landlines down. I’m afraid the toll with regards to the loss of animal life will probably never be fully tallied, but some of the luckiest pets are being airlifted out of harm’s way with their owners. Our governor even got in on the action. As the LA Times put it:

Things have gotten so bad in Colorado that even the governor is rescuing people.


Gov. John Hickenlooper said his helicopter crew stopped to rescue four stranded people, a dog and a cat while he was on his way to a news conference Saturday to brief reporters on the disaster.

The American Red Cross has opened shelters for displaced people all along the Front Range. Animals are being sheltered at several humane societies throughout the region. The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association put out this list:

  • The Humane Society of Boulder Valley animal shelter in Boulder is open and is sheltering evacuated pets. More information can be found at
  • Longmont Humane Society is open and is helping flood victims by distributing pet food, other supplies and sheltering displaced animals. More information can be found
  • Larimer Humane Society is open and is helping pets in need as a result of flooding in Larimer County. More information can be found at
  • Foothills Animal Shelter is open and is helping pets in need as a result of flooding in Jefferson County. More information can be found at 
  • Weld County Humane Society is open and is helping pets in need as a result of flooding in Weld County. More information can be found at

Nobody around here was prepared for the severity of these floods. I’ve heard them described as “thousand year” events. In some areas, people and pets may not be able to return home (assuming they have homes to return to) for months due to the degree of road damage.

This event brings home the need for disaster preparedness. You may think you have all your bases covered, but you just never know what nature (or people, for that matter) might throw your way. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation has put together a booklet entitled Saving the Whole Family. Take the time to read it and follow its recommendations.

Your pets would say “Thank You” if they could.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Thinkstock