Preparing Your Pet for Disaster

posted: 05/15/12
Read more Read less
AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

When disaster strikes, every second counts. Your life and that of your family members -- including your pets -- may depend on how well you've planned ahead. Using information provided by the Humane Society of the United States, we've created this guide on how to keep your companion animals safe in the event of a catastrophe.


Don't wait until the last minute to prepare your pet for a disaster. Here's a list of things you can do now to make sure your pet survives in one piece.

1. Prepare an emergency supply kit for your pet. The kit -- a sturdy container, such as a duffel bag or covered trash bin -- should include:

- A first aid kit, medications and medical records. It's also a good idea to include a pet first aid book. All paperwork should be stored in a waterproof container.

- Sturdy leashes and harnesses to prevent larger pets from becoming separated.

- Carriers to safely transport smaller pets. Each carrier should be large enough to allow the animal to stand up, turn around and lie down. Consider including blankets or towels for bedding and warmth.

- A three-day supply of food and water for each pet, as well as bowls and a manual can opener if necessary.

- A three-day supply of litter for each cat, as well as a litter box.

- A folder with current photos and descriptions of your pets so that they can be easily identified in case you become separated. These should be stored in a waterproof container.

2. Make sure your pet is wearing up-to-date identification at all times. This should include your contact information as well as the phone number of someone out of the area in case your pet becomes lost while you're not at home.

3. Make a list of several locations where you can take your pet during an evacuation. If you have more than one pet, you might have to make separate arrangements for each animal. Here are a few tips:

- Contact motels and hotels outside your immediate area to ask about their pet policies. Be sure to ask about any restrictions on size, species and number of pets. If a motel or hotel does not normally accept pets, ask if their "no pet" policy would be waived during a disaster. Keep a list of places where you can take your pet.

- Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be ablt to shelter you and your pets, or just your pets, in the event of an emergency.

- Create a list of veterinary offices or boarding facilities that might be able to shelter animals in emergencies.

- Ask your local animal shelter if it provides foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency. However, this should only be used as a final resort, as the shelter will likely be taking in other animals during an emergency.

4. In the event disaster strikes while you're away, ask a trusted neighbor if he or she would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a specified location. Make sure the neighbor has a key to your home, knows where your pet's emergency supply kit is kept and is comfortable with your animals. If you use a pet-sitting service, they may be able to help, but ask them well in advance.


In the event of a disaster, your pet is entirely dependent on you for its survival. Here are some helpful tips on how to evacuate a disaster area with your pet.

1. Take your pet with you. This is the single most important thing you can do for your pet when disaster strikes. Animals that are turned loose or left behind to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predation, contaminated food or water, or accidents. Even if you think you're only going to be gone for a few hours, take your pet with you.

2. Leave the area early -- don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. It's far better to make an unnecessary trip than to wait too long to leave safely with your pets. For hurricanes, pay attention to forecasts and always anticipate a category higher than the one being predicted, as the storms often increase in strength just before landfall.

3. Call to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.

4. Bring your pets into the house and confine them so you can leave quickly if you have to. Make sure your pet's emergency supply kit is ready to go.

5. Try to evacuate to a safe location as close to home as possible. A long-distance evacuation can pose problems when highways are crowded.

More on