Dogs | Cats | October 8, 2015

Disaster & Emergency Preparedness for Your Pet

dog lying on carpet

Hurricane Katrina and subsequent disasters have taught us many hard lessons. Governments and their agencies are more aware of the need to include pets in an emergency plan, and these events also woke up individual pet owners to the need to be prepared not only for themselves but also for their pets. An ambitious effort has been made in recent years to educate pet owners on how to be prepared for emergencies. If a hurricane, flood, fire, earthquake or other emergency were to strike your city, town or neighbourhood, are you and your pets prepared to ride out the storm? Here are some things to think about in order to be prepared.

Hatch a Plan

  • Plan ahead and make arrangements for the care of your pets in case you have to evacuate your home, or in case you are not home when disaster strikes.
  • Have a close friend or neighbour be your disaster ‘buddy’ in case you aren’t home when an evacuation order comes. Give them a key to your home and tell them where to find your pet and their emergency kit.
  • Check out the local pet-friendly hotels so you know before you have to evacuate where you can go with your pet. Or perhaps you have out of town relatives that can help.
  • If an evacuation is called for, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. If your home isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets. They may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Not all reception centers accept pets, so in the case of an evacuation, go to the nearest reception center and ask them to help you contact the animal assistance organization. It is important that you have determined where you will take your pets ahead of time. Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets.
  • Have your pets microchipped so that if they do get taken to a shelter or vet, they can easily be reunited with you.
  • Whether you use your pet’s kennel on a daily basis or not, make it a point to crate train them anyways. If an emergency occurs and they have to be taken to an animal reception center, they will be housed in crates. If they are at least comfortable in their kennel it will be much less stressful for them.

Make an Emergency Kit

Assemble a kit containing the essentials for your pet to survive for a minimum of two weeks. (Many of these can be stored in a waterproof container inside your pet’s kennel or carrier which you should also make sure you have):

  • Water (allow 1 gallon per day per pet)
  • Food
  • Medications and Microchip information or other ID
  • Recent photos of your pet for ID purposes or ‘Lost’ Posters. (Also include a photo of you WITH your pet for ease of identification later on)
  • A list of your pet’s descriptive features (age, sex, neutered/non-neutered status, color(s), and approximate weight)
  • Vaccination records
  • Pet First Aid Kit (including muzzle if a dog)
  • Blanket or pillowcase (for scooping up a fearful pet)
  • Leash and harness or collar
  • Favorite treats, chew toys, bedding, food & water dishes
  • Litter, scoop & box for kitties
  • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
  • Flashlight

Rotate the food, water, and medications in your kit two to three times per year to make sure they are fresh. If possible, all pets should wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, your telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.

Include a copy of your pet’s emergency plan complete with contact information in case you are not there when an evacuation occurs.

Your kit should be stored someplace close to an exit or somewhere that would be easily accessible to the outside.

Alert for First Responders

Affix an Emergency Alert Sticker near your front and back doors so that emergency personnel will know to look for your pets if you are evacuated while you are not at home. If you are a US resident, you can get a sticker at no cost by clicking here.

Your local pet supply store may also sell similar stickers. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers.

In-Place Sheltering

Sometimes evacuation is not necessary or possible, so you should plan ahead to hunker down and ride out the storm or crisis at home. If emergency officials recommend that you stay in your home, it’s crucial that you keep your pets with you. Keep your emergency kit and supplies close at hand. Your pets may become stressed during the in-house sheltering, so you may consider crating them for their own safety and comfort.

  • Determine well in advance which rooms are safest for you and your pets. Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck (such as vents or beneath heavy furniture).
  • Choose easy-to-clean areas such as utility rooms, bathrooms, and basements as safe zones and make sure all toxic items are removed.
  • A supply of fresh water is particularly important. If there is a chance your water supply will be cut off or compromised in some way, fill up bathtubs and sinks ahead of time to ensure that you have access to water during a power outage or other crises. Toilet tank water can also be used.

A little preparation for emergencies will go a long way to making sure you and your pet come through a crisis situation in the best possible shape.