Emergencies come in many forms: fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, violent storms and even terrorism. In the event of extreme weather or a disaster, would you know what to do to protect your pet? 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. Be prepared: make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pet.
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Before an Emergency
To get started, familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that could affect your area and consider your options for providing care for your pet(s). Disasters can happen without warning, so be prepared:
Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.
Microchip your pet(s) – this is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
Keep a leash and/or carrier near the exit.
Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).
Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. Ask your veterinarian for help in putting together your pet’s veterinary records.
Make a Plan
Plan where you and your pet will stay in case you need to evacuate your home. Pets may not be allowed in local shelters, unless they are service animals. Many disaster evacuation centers (such as Red Cross evacuation centers) do not accept pets and other animals.
Identify shelters or out-of-town friends or relatives where your pets and other animals can stay.
Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter and in the case you are unable to return home right away.
Create a buddy system in case you’re not home during an emergency. Ask a trusted neighbor who can check on your animals and can evacuate your animals if necessary.
Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter and add the veterinarian’s contact information to your emergency kit.
Create an emergency kit for your pet
Prepare an emergency kit for your pet ahead of time.
Purchase a pet carrier for each of your pets (write your pet’s name, your name, and contact information on each carrier).
Food and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet
For cats: litter box and litter
For dogs: plastic bags for poop
Medications for at least 2 weeks
Medical records, including record of vaccination for rabies and other diseases, prescription medications, and medical history.
Sturdy leashes or harnesses
Contact information (cell phone, work phone, home phone) of owner and close relative or friends
Practice evacuating your pet
Train your pets to be in their carriers by making it a comfortable place.
Practice transporting your pet by taking them for rides in a vehicle similar to one you would be evacuating in. If you do not have a car, make arrangements with neighbors, family, and friends. You can also contact your local government to learn about transportation options during a disaster.
Know where your pet might hide when stressed or scared. Practice catching your pet, if needed.
For cats, you can practice removing your cat from his/her hiding spot and using your cat’s carrier, a pillowcase, a sturdy box — anything to get your cat quickly out of harm’s way.
Have your entire family practice evacuating with your pets so everyone knows what to take, where to find the pets, and where to meet.
During an Emergency
If you don’t have a plan and need information quickly in an emergency, contact:
Local Animal Shelters
Search for local shelters and rescue groups on Petfinder’s Shelter Center. Local animal shelters may be able to offer advice on what to do with your pets if you are asked to evacuate your home.
Local government animal control or service agencies can provide guidance on how to protect your pets in an emergency.
RedRover shelters and cares for animals displaced by natural disasters and other crises in the United States and Canada. If you need sheltering assistance, please call RedRover at (800) 440-3277 or visit RedRover.org.
Sheltering during an evacuation
Remember, during a disaster, what is good for you is good for your pet. If you leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured – or worse. Never leave a pet chained outdoors.
Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets. If accommodations are needed for your pet(s):
Contact local veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, local animal shelters, family or friends outside the evacuation area, or a pet-friendly hotel, particularly along evacuation routes.
Visit the Humane Society website to find a shelter in your area.
Remember to take your pet’s emergency kit with you.
Learn what to expect if you take your pet to an evacuation center.
Sheltering in place
When sheltering at home with your pet, make sure the room chosen is pet-friendly in the following ways:
Select a safe room, preferably an interior room with no (or few) windows.
Remove any toxic chemicals or plants.
Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck in (such as vents or beneath heavy furniture).
Diseases that can spread between pets and people during a natural disaster
Natural disasters can contribute to the transmission of some diseases. Exposure to inclement weather conditions, stagnant water, wildlife or unfamiliar animals, and overcrowding can put your pet at risk for getting sick. Some of these illnesses can be transmitted between pets and people (also known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses). Some common disaster-related diseases that pets can pass to people are the following: rabies, leptospirosis, and diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.
Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system in both animals and people. Rabies is transmitted through bites from rabid animals or through contact with their saliva. To protect you and your pet: Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately. Practice safe handling of pets in a stressful situation. Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash. Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in the urine of infected animals that can cause kidney damage and affect other organs. It is transmitted through contact with infected urine or contaminated water, soil, and food. Wash your hands after coming in contact with urine. Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters. Don’t allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water.
Diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks: Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are common pests of stray animals and can be a problem immediately following a disaster situation. Their bites irritate the skin and may also spread a variety of diseases (Lyme disease, West Nile virus) harmful to both people and animals. To help prevent illnesses associated with mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks: Keep your pet away from wildlife and stray animals. Talk to your veterinarian about the use of a regular preventative treatment for fleas, ticks, and parasites for your pet.
How to Keep Yourself and Your Pets Healthy During a Disaster
Wash your hands after handling your pet, its food, or its waste.
Do not let your pet lick your face or hands.
Keep your pet up-to-date on all vaccinations and heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives.
Practice safe handling of your pet, because your pet may behave differently during a stressful situation.
Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash.
Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals, especially wildlife and stray animals.
Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately.
Properly clean and disinfect cages and litterboxes. Wash your pet’s bedding regularly.
Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters.
Don’t allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water.