Our pets enrich our lives in more ways than we can count. In turn, they depend on us for their safety and well-being. This article will give you some ideas about how you can be prepared and protect your pets when disaster strikes. The following information was developed using information from AVERT, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Red Cross, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in order to help our beloved pets and their families be better prepared in time of disasters.

Be prepared with a Disaster Plan

The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan should include your pets. Your being prepared can save their lives. Different disasters require different responses. But whether the disaster is a Hurricane, Tornado, Wild Fire or a Hazardous Spill, you may have to evacuate your home and your city.

If you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worse. Prepare now for the day you and your pets may have to leave your home.

Have a Safe Place To Take Your Pets.

Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of state health and safety regulations and other considerations. Service animals who assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.

Evacuations Tips for Pets

  • Take your pets with you. Many people mistakenly leave their companion animals behind when they evacuate during an emergency, thinking their pet’s instincts will prevent them being harmed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Companion animals depend on us for their survival, much as children do.
  • Identify your pet. Securely fasten a current identification tag to your pet’s collar. If you face evacuation, it is a good idea to attach to the collar the phone number of a friend or family member who is able to contact you.
  • Photograph your pet. Carry a photo of your pet for identification purposes.
  • Transport your pet safely. Use secure pet carriers and keep your pet on a leash or in a harness.
  • Find a pet-friendly hotel. Because most emergency shelters DO NOT admit pets, call hotels in a safe location and ask if you can bring your pet. If the hotel has a no-pet policy, ask the manager if the hotel can wave the policy during the disaster.
  • Foster your pet. If you and your pet cannot stay together, call friends, family members, veterinarians, or boarding kennels in a safe area to arrange safe foster care.
  • Have supplies on hand. Be sure to have a 72 hour kit for your animals (see 72 hour kit for animals), one week worth of food, water, medication, cat litter, or any other supplies your pet needs on a regular basis.
  • Plan your evacuation and leave in plenty of time. Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. When rescue officials come to your door, they may not allow you to take your pets with you.
  • Carry a list of emergency telephone numbers with you. This should include your veterinarian, local animal control, local animal shelters, the Red Cross, and any other individuals or groups you might need to contact during the disaster.

Evacuation Tips for Farm Animals

  • Evacuate animals as soon as possible. Be ready to leave once the evacuation is ordered.
  • Arrange your evacuation route in advance.
  • Arrange for a place to house you animals.
  • Plan an alternate evacuation route. Alternate routes should be mapped out in case the planned route becomes inaccessible,
  • Set up safe transportation. Make sure that you have available trucks, trailers, or other vehicles suitable for transporting farm animals. And arrange to have experienced animal handlers and drivers to transport them.
  • Take your supplies with you. At evacuation site, you should have, or be able to readily obtain, food, water, veterinary care, handling equipment, and generators if necessary.
  • Work with the state department of agriculture. If your animals cannot be evacuated, your state department of agriculture can provide on-farm oversight.

Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supply Kit

Whether you are away from home for a day, or a week, you’ll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (duffle bags, covered trash containers, etc.). Your pet disaster supplies kit should include:

  • Medication and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can’t escape.
  • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
  • Food, portable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
  • Information on feeding schedule, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and numbers of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

Know What To Do As a Disaster Approaches

  • Often warnings are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect yourself and your pets.
  • Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arraignments for you and your pets.
  • Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
  • Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars which are securely fastened and are marked with up-to-date identification. Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, or of a friend a relative outside the disaster area. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet’s ID tag, adding informatio with an indelible pen. You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find a trusted neighbor who would be willing to collect your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supply kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance. Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Don’t leave animals unattended anywhere because they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. When you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

Caring for Birds in an Emergency

Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing birds inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds’ feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have towels and change them frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the cage or carrier.

Caring for Reptiles

Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but they must be transferred to more secure housing when they reach the evacuation site. If your snake requires frequent feeding, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad. When transporting house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.

Caring for Pocket Pets

Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.

A Final Word

If you must evacuate, do not leave your animals behind. Evacuate them to a prearranged safe location if they cannot stay with you at the shelter. Remember, pets are not allowed in Red Cross shelters. If there is a possibility that disaster may strike while you are out of the house, there are precautions you can take to increase your pets’ chances of survival, but they are not a substitute for evacuation of your pets. In a statement of understanding, The American Red Cross recognizes The Human Society of The United Stated as the nation’s largest protection organization responsible for the safety and well-being of animals, including disaster relief. The American Red Cross is committed to transforming the caring and concern of the American people into immediate action.