Pet Disaster Preparedness: How to Keep Your Pets Safe in an Emergency

pet disaster preparedness

Your pets are part of the family. But you may not realize that emergency shelters may turn away your furry companions if you don't take certain precautions well before disaster strikes.

Don’t leave your pet to chance during an emergency, whether it’s a hurricane, flood, or fire. These tips can help you make a plan to safely evacuate with your pet, pack an emergency pet kit, and keep your pet safe year round.

Evacuating with Pets

Don’t leave your pets behind, no matter if you’re facing a hurricane, earthquake, fire, flood, or other disaster. Your pets can’t care for themselves in an emergency. If you receive an evacuation order, leave as quickly as possible and take your pets with you. Their survival depends on it.

These pointers can help you evacuate safely with your animals.

  1. Make a pet-friendly evacuation plan. This plan should have two versions: one for when you’re home and can get to your pet and a contingency plan in case you’re not home when disaster strikes. If you are away when disaster hits, make sure you have arrangements in place for a friend, neighbor, family member, or pet sitter to come get your pet. In either situation, pick a pet-friendly evacuation shelter and make arrangements in advance, if possible. That may mean finding a shelter that accepts both people and their animal companions, a pet-friendly hotel, or a family member’s home outside of the evacuation area.
  2. Pack a pet emergency kit. This kit will help you care for your pet while you’re away from home. See the next section for a full list of supplies to include.
  3. Plan for worst-case scenarios. If you and your pet are separated, you want to have resources on hand that can help you find them, including recent photos, microchip numbers, and registration numbers.
  4. Make a list of emergency veterinarians near your shelter. In case your pet is injured during the disaster, you may need to take them to a new facility for care. Be sure to have a couple animal hospitals on this list in case some aren’t open 24/7.
  5. Make sure your pet is recently vaccinated. Most emergency shelters will turn away animals that don’t have proof of vaccinations. Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date and keep a copy of their vaccination records in your emergency kit.
  6. Provide comfort. Emergencies are stressful for animals, too. Bring a sturdy crate to keep your pet safe during transport. When possible, bring their favorite toys to provide comfort and familiarity.

Pet Emergency Kit: What to Include

Assemble a pet emergency kit well before a disaster. This way you can grab it at a moment's notice and be assured you've packed the essentials. Your pet emergency kit should include:

  • A 3-day supply (minimum) of pet food in a waterproof container
  • A 3-day supply of bottled water specifically for your pet
  • Bowls
  • A manual can opener
  • A crate or carrier they can comfortably stand in
  • A collar with an ID tag, safety harness, and leash
  • Medical records, proof of registration, and vaccination records
  • Medicines (a two-week supply) and first-aid kit
  • A photo of you and your pet in case you need additional identification
  • Favorite toys and bedding
  • Waste cleanup supplies
  • An emergency contact list, including veterinarians and nearby shelters

Check your emergency kit at least once a year so you can replace expired items and update your pet’s information.

Year-Round Pet Safety Checklist

  • Assess your evacuation plan and pet emergency kit once a year.
  • Keep a rescue alert sticker on your front door to let neighbors and rescuers know your pets are inside and need to be evacuated.
  • Keep pet vaccinations up to date.
  • Keep your pets leashed when they are not in the home.
  • Don’t let your pet drink tap water after a disaster until it’s safe for drinking.
  • Microchip your pet and attach an ID tag to their collar so they can be returned to you.
  • Know where to search for lost animals, such as local shelters, animal hospitals, etc.

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