Woman evacuating dog from natural disaster

Emergencies come in many forms, and may require anything from a brief absence from home to a permanent evacuation. No matter where you live, the unexpected can occur. Disasters come in all forms. Whether it comes in the form of blizzards, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, floods, or tornados, emergencies occur in all parts of the country.

Preparation is key to a successful evacuation and each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe. Everyone should have a disaster plan for their family, including one for pets. Preparedness can help save lives. Pets are part of the family, and it is imperative they be included in all family disaster plans. Remember, they’re counting on you.

Staying Prepared

Make a Pet Go-Bag

Keep a pet go-bag handy for your pets. Make sure everyone in the family knows its location – it should be clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your pack include:

  • Pet first-aid kit and guide book
  • 3-7 days’ worth of canned or dry food 
  • Extra leash, harness, and collar
  • Any medication
  • First-aid kit
    • Self-cling bandages
    • Gauze & medical tape
    • Antiseptic wipes/powder/spray
    • Hydrogen peroxide
    • Scissors & tweezers
  • Two collapsible bowls for food & water
  • Important paperwork
    • Proof of pet vaccinations
    • Health history
    • Proof of ownership
    • Photo of pet (in case you get separated)
  • Comfort items
    • Toys
    • Blanket/bed/bedding
    • Favorite treats
  • Flashlight with charged batteries

City or County Disaster Programs

Does your city or town have a disaster program plan? Research which groups exist and the name of the leader. Check with the local non-profit humane societies in your area to see if they have their own plan and an animal evacuation group. Other agencies to check include Animal Control, City Hall, local chapter of American Red Cross, Fire Department, or Law Enforcement.

Safe Haven

Do not leave your pets behind to fend for themselves. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. They may become trapped, escape, or be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Many Red Cross disaster shelters will not accept pets because of health and safety regulations, so it is imperative you have determined where you will take your pets ahead of time. Options include:

  • Contacting your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities
  • Asking your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets
  • Identifying hotels or motels outside your immediate area that accept pets
  • Asking friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would care for your pet

Designated Caregivers

Consider designating a caregiver who can help your pet in the event you cannot get home. When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. This person should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual, along with feeding and care instructions for all pets and your veterinarian’s name. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own – you may even offer to swap responsibilities, depending upon who has accessibility.

Additional Resources

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Disaster Preparedness Series lists the following available materials:

Header photo courtesy of FEMA Photo Library

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