Pet Disaster Preparedness
We never want to think of the worst, but hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, hazardous material spills, diseases and other disasters can strike anytime, anywhere. In the event of a disaster, proper preparation will help ensure the safety of your family and pets. While you may have already practiced evacuation strategies in your home and prepared some emergency essentials for the human family members in your household, it’s important to keep in mind that your pets will also require some supplies to remain healthy and provided for.
Preparing your pet for an emergency
Emergencies and natural disasters can cause a lot of stress and anxiety but being prepared can help lessen the stress and help you remain calm so you can take care of your family and pets.
Create a pet emergency kit
When preparing disaster kits for your family, make sure to also prepare one for your pets. Your pet emergency kit should include:
- Recent photographs of your pet
- Health, vaccination and registration records
- 2-week supply of drinking water in gallon-sized plastic containers
- 2-week supply of food
- 2-week supply of medication(s) (as needed)
- Travel pet bowls
- Can opener (as needed for canned food)
- Pet first aid kit
- Calming aids
- Collar and leash (as appropriate)
- Their microchip number (as appropriate)
- Backup batteries or power (as appropriate for lighting or filtration needs)
- Carrier or crate; a plastic or non-glass habitat should be used for transport of companion animals such as hamsters and reptiles
- Potty pads and/or litter
- Waste bags and/or litter box
- Bed, blankets and/or bedding
- List of important contact numbers such as your veterinarian, a nearby shelter and emergency pet hospitals
- List of hotels that accept pets
Practice safety measures
While having a pet emergency kit at the ready is important, practicing safety measures, that include your pet, in your daily life will allow for your family to act quickly and feel confident you’re prepared.
- Always make sure your pet wears an ID tag (as appropriate) with your contact information
- Get your pet microchipped (as appropriate) and keep the contact information updated
- Ensure any travel carriers have your updated contact information featured, transporting your pet to their routine vet visits is a perfect time to check this has been done
- Have at least a week's supply of food stored in air-tight, waterproof containers available for your pet
- If your pet is on long-term medication, keep a backup supply on hand
- Have a secure carrier and train your pet to be comfortable using it
- Start a buddy system with someone in your neighborhood so that they will check on your pet during a disaster in case you aren't home, agreeing to do the same for them; exchange information and have a permission slip put in your file at your veterinarian's office authorizing your friend to get necessary emergency treatment for your pet should you not be available
- Have backup power or battery sources ready for pets that will require it (such as reptiles and aquatic life)
- Know where the animal shelters are in your area, as you may need to visit them after a disaster to look for a missing pet
- Since pets may not be permitted in Red Cross shelters, look for shelters ahead of time to make sure your pet has a place to stay
- Research hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets: ask about any restrictions on number, size and species; ask if "no pet" policies would be waived in an emergency; and make a list of pet friendly places to keep in your emergency kit
- Check with friends and relatives outside your immediate area, and ask if they would be able to shelter you and your pets, or just your pets, if necessary
- Prepare a list of contact numbers including your veterinarian and nearby shelter to keep in your emergency kit
- Include your pets in any evacuation practices and lessons you may be giving children in your family
Evacuating with pets
If you evacuate, take your pets.
The most important thing you can do to protect your pet is to take them with you when you evacuate. Even if you think you may be gone only for a few hours, take your pets with you. Once you leave your home, you have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area and you may not be able to go back for your pets without being put at risk. If your area is being evacuated, leave early and don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. By opting to leave early you will have more time to get your pet and everything they and your family require.
If you must leave your pet for safety reasons, then leave them in a room without windows such as a bathroom or laundry room. Make sure to provide plenty of food and water. Leave a note on the outside of the door and outside your home in a highly visible spot advising of the location, type of pet and your contact numbers as well as the number to your vet so that emergency responders can get to them if possible.
While most evacuation sites will take your pets with you, don't rely on it. If your pet is not allowed at the temporary shelter, contact friends, family, veterinarians or boarding kennels to arrange for care. Make sure to supply medical records, feeding information, food and medicine with your pet. If you cannot return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet's medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.
Shelter in place
If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, be sure to create a safe space in your home.
- Bring pets into the house and confine them so you can leave with them quickly if necessary
- Make sure each pet ID tag and carrier has up-to-date identification and contact information
- Be prepared with medications, pet food and water, along with emergency supplies
- Be sure to comfort your pet, as they are scared too, and having you near to give them reassurance will help
- Continue to feed your pet at their regularly scheduled time and provide them with water at all times
For more information and recommendations on preparing a pet emergency kit, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s “Pets and disasters” page and consult with your pet’s veterinarian on any specific recommendations for your pet.