Preparing Pets for Disaster

For many of us, our households include more than the two-legged inhabitants who pay the bills. We also own pets—millions of them—whether it’s dogs, cats, birds, turtles or fish.

You’ve prepared and reviewed an emergency escape plan for your two-legged family members, but have you ever considered what you would do with your lizard if flood waters suddenly invaded your basement? Or what you would do with the guinea pig if a fire started in your garage?

No matter what type of pet you own, you need to prepare today for possible disaster tomorrow. Being prepared will help save lives.

Here are some things you can do to be better prepared.


  • Record-keeping
    • Medical--You should keep accurate records of your pet’s health and all veterinarian visits and vaccinations. This is especially important for pets with medical problems such as diabetes or liver disease. Having all medications written down, as well as treatments given, will help in administering first aid, should it become necessary. o
    • Breeder/Adoption—Just as you keep your child’s birth certificate in a safe place, you should also keep your pet’s adoption or registration papers safe.
  •  Supplies—You should gather enough of the following for 3-4 days
    • Food (and dish—collapsible ones are handy for packing)
    • Water (and dish—collapsible ones are handy for packing)
    • Medications—bring in their original container with vet’s name and correct dosages
    • Toys o Bedding o Collar, Leash—Even if your dog roams free in your yard, a leash is a necessity in public areas or shelters which allow pets
    • Carrier or crate—Your pet may not use one at home, but one may be required in a shelter.
    • Paper towels, litter, plastic bags, etc., should always be handy to clean up after your pets. They can’t use the portable toilets, nor can they use the grass in a public area.
  • Other
    • You should always be current on your pet’s I.D. tags. Use your cell phone number on the tag because your home phone may not work after a disaster. Your rabies tag should be current also. The county may not be able to access their records in an emergency.
    • Microchip your pet—You will have a better chance of reuniting with your pet if you have it micro-chipped. The procedure is painless and inexpensive compared to the heartache of a lost pet.


  • Evacuate or Stay Put?—Each disaster is unique. It may strike without warning, or you may know days ahead that a hurricane is coming. A flood may strike the entire neighborhood, or a fire may consume only your home. A winter storm may leave you without heat, but your generator may provide enough electricity to keep you going for a day or two. Only when the situation is upon you, can you make the decision to evacuate or stay put. But sometimes they come so quickly, you barely have time to think, much less gather up belongings. Which is why you should think about this now, and determine just what sort of emergency or situation would make you stay put, and which would be severe enough to leave. ·
  • Take your Pets or Leave Them?—This is another difficult decision. Unfortunately, it is not always ours to make. So while you know you would always take you pets with you, the authorities or shelter may say it’s not possible. If your emergency is isolated, your changes are much better at taking everyone along. But if the entire area is affected, you may need to leave pets at home. ·
  • Make a Plan to Evacuate
    • Escape routes—You know which door to exit if the front is blocked. Or you know to use the window. And you’ve gone over this plan with the children. But what about the pets? They can’t act on their own, especially if they are caged. Determine ahead of time which family member will be responsible for which pets. And as always, have a back-up plan if the original falls through.
    • Pet Care—Investigate hotels and motels in the area that accept pets. Does your veterinarian offer boarding in such a situation? Perhaps there is a neighbor who could watch the cats for you. Whatever the solution, have several alternatives in case the first ones don’t work out. It is easy to find boarding for your pets when a tree falls on your house and it takes a week or two to board up the windows. But what do you do if the entire city is flooded? Chances are the hotel or vet can’t take your pet also. So include hotels and motels within a 50-100 mile radius should the need occur.  


  • Geographical Risks—What may be a threat to some parts of the country is not a threat to others. For example, the eastern coastline is susceptible to hurricanes, while the Midwest has tornadoes, and the west coast has earthquakes. And any of us can suffer flooding or fire. The preparation for each of these disasters is different. Visit the Ready America ( web site for more information on how to tailor your needs to the disasters in your area.
  • Stay Tuned—When a crisis is impending, you may hear warnings ahead of time. Hurricanes take time to form. Tornado sirens may go off. But earthquakes happen without warning. When you can plan ahead, do so. Listen to broadcasts to see when the storm is expected, or when you need to evacuate. Even if the broadcasts don’t talk about evacuation immediately, have your emergency kits ready to go. You won’t be scrambling to put them together at the last minute.

While not every disaster is predictable, the tragedies and injuries that result can be lessened if you are prepared. And don’t just think about the humans in your family. Your pets will need extra care also. They can’t fend for themselves. They depend on you. Be there for them.



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