Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.
Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can put pets, pet owners, and first responders in danger. Even if you try to create a safe place for them, pets left behind during a disaster are likely to be injured, lost, or worse. It is your responsibility as a pet owner to find out what type of shelters and assistance are available in your area to accommodate pets and to include pets in your disaster plan to keep them safe during an emergency.
Along with a human emergency supplies kit, assemble an emergency supplies and traveling kit for your pets (ask your vet what to include). Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is and it should be easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your pack include:
- Current photo of your pet for identification purposes
- Veterinary records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)
- Make sure identification tags are up-to-date and securely fastened to your pet's collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home.
- Pet first-aid kit
- A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
- 3-7 days' worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months) and feeding dishes
- Bottled water, at least 7 days' worth for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
- Litter or paper toweling, disposable litter trays
- Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
- Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
- Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
If you evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind! Pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.
If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.
Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can't care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets and not all Red Cross shelters can accept pets. Thus, it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time:
- Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
- Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets. Visit the Humane Society websiteto find a shelter in your area.
- Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
- Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets well in advance of needing them. There are also a number of guides that list hotels/motels that permit pets and could serve as a starting point. Include your local animal shelter's number in your list of emergency numbers. They might be able to provide information concerning pets during a disaster.
- Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets. Pet-friendly hotels:
- Avoid wild or stray animals.
- Protect yourself from mosquitoes by using insect repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin.
- To avoid attracting rodents, remove potential sources of food, water, and shelter such as garbage, dirty dishes, and debris.
- Be aware of snakes that may be swimming in the water to get to higher ground and those that may be hiding under debris or other objects.
Disaster Preparedness Resources for Pets
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) – The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world.
- American Humane Association – Since 1877 the historic American Humane Association has been at the forefront of every major advancement in protecting children, pets and farm animals from abuse and neglect.
- FEMA Brochure – Prepare for Emergencies Now: Information for Pet Owners – Create a preparedness plan for your pets and their well being during emergency situations.
- CDC Handout – Pet Disaster Preparation Checklist
- CDC Handout – Pet Boarding Instructions
- CDC – Interim Guidelines for Animal Health and Control of Disease Transmission in Pet Shelters – These Interim Guidelines have been developed by consultation between the American Veterinary Medical Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are advisory in nature. They are intended to provide guidance for the care of animals entering shelters and for persons working with or handling the animals in response to natural disasters.
- CDC – Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet: http://www.cdc.gov/features/Petsanddisasters/
- Image Source: http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/images/59617 [Accessed: April 25, 2014]
- Ready.gov – Caring for Animals: http://www.ready.gov/caring-animals
- Ready.gov – Pet and Animal Emergency Planning: https://www.ready.gov/animals
- CDC – Protect Yourself from Animal- and Insect-Related Hazards After a Disaster: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/animalhazards/facts.asp