Emergency Preparedness for Pet Owners

When disaster strikes, the same rules that apply to people apply to pets: Preparation makes all the difference, and if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for them. Take a few minutes to make a plan and assemble an emergency kit for yourself and your pet.

To-Do list for protecting your pet in an emergency

Start getting ready now

  • ID your pet

    • Make sure that your cat or dog is wearing a collar and identification that is up to date and visible at all times
    • If your pet has a microchip, make sure the information is current and up-to-date
    • If your pet came from a rescue group, make sure all information has been transferred to you and the rescue group has your current contact information
    • Put your cell phone number on your pet’s tag. Also consider putting the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area—in case you have had to evacuate.
  • Put together your disaster kit

    • Every member of your family should know what he or she needs to take when you evacuate. You’ll also need supplies for your pet. Stock up on non-perishables well ahead of time, and have everything ready to go at a moment’s notice
    • Keep everything accessible and stored in sturdy containers (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.) that can be carried easily
    • Any dry pet food should be stored in air-tight containers and refreshed every 6 months
    • If you live in an area prone to flooding or hurricanes, make a kit to keep in your car in case you have to evacuate quickly
    • If you live in an area where tornadoes occur, store supplies in a tornado-proof room or cellar
      • Your pet disaster kit should contain:
        • Food and water for at least five days for each pet
        • bowls
        • manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food
        • People need at least one gallon of water per person per day, keep an extra gallon per peton hand if your pet has been exposed to chemicals or flood waters and needs to be rinsed
        • Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container
        • Pet first aid kit
        • Garbage bags to collect all pet waste
        • For cats: cat litter box, litter, litter scoop,  and carrier for safe transport
        • For dogs: Sturdy leash, harness, and carrier for safe transport
        • Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated—and to prove that they are yours once you’re reunited
        • Written information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions, and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care
        • Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach
  • Find a safe place to stay ahead of time

    • In the case of home evacuation: locate a pet-friendly shelter (not all emergency shelters have the resources to accept families with pets)
    • Call your local office of emergency management to see if you will be allowed to evacuate with your pets and that there will be shelters that take people and their pets in your area. And just to be safe, track down a pet-friendly safe place for your family and pets
      •  Find a pet-friendly hotel or motel:
        • Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to find out if they accept pets
        • Ask about any restrictions on number, size, and species
        • Inquire if the “no pet” policies would be waived in an emergency
        • Keep a list of animal-friendly places handy, and call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home
        • Some online resources for finding pet-friendly hotels:
      • Make arrangements with friends or relatives
      • Ask someone you trust outside the immediate area if they would be able to shelter you and your pets—or just your pets—if necessary
      • Consider a kennel or veterinarian’s office. Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in disaster emergencies (include their 24-hour telephone numbers)
      • As a last resort, ask your local animal shelter.Some shelters may be able to provide foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency
  • Plan for your pet in case you’re not home

    • Make arrangements well in advance for a trusted neighbor or nearby friend or family member to take your pets and meet you at a specified location
    • Give your emergency caretaker a key to your home and show her or him where your pets are likely to be (or hide) and where your disaster supplies are kep
    • If you evacuate, take your pet. If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. Even if you think you will only be gone for a few hours, take your pets. You have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able—or allowed—to go back for your pets
    • Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or worse
    • Those left inside your home can escape through storm-damaged areas, such as broken windows
    • Pets turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents. Leaving dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster is a death sentence
    • Evacuate early. Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been told to leave their pets behind
    • The smell of smoke, high winds or lightening may make your pet more fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier. Evacuating before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful
  • Keep taking care even after the disaster.

    • Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust
    • Don’t allow your pets to roam loose: familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
    • While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, your pets could escape.
    • Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.
    • If your community has been flooded, search your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there. Stressed wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet.
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