Disaster Planning for Pets

Pets need special care during emergencies  |  Photo by Jen Gennari  |  post by Larry Clinton

Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can put pets, pet owners, and first responders in danger, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even if you try to create a safe place for them, pets left behind during a disaster are likely to be injured, lost, or worse. Be prepared: make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pet. The following tips come from the CDC and the S.F. Chronicle’s recent Survival Guide supplement:

  • Make sure your pets wear collars and tags with up–to–date contact information and other identification.
  • Microchip your pet(s)—this is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
  • Purchase a pet carrier for each of your pets (write your pet’s name, your name, and contact information on each carrier).
  • Keep a sturdy leash and/or carrier near the exit.
  • Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).
  • Ask your veterinarian for help in putting together your pet’s veterinary records.
Make a Plan
  • Determine where you and your pet will stay in case you need to evacuate your home. Pets may not be allowed in local shelters unless they are service animals. Many disaster evacuation centers (such as Red Cross evacuation centers) do not accept pets and other animals.
  • Identify shelters or out–of–town friends or relatives where your pets and other animals can stay.
  • Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter in case you are unable to return home right away.
  • Create a buddy system in case you’re not home during an emergency. Ask a trusted neighbor who can check on your animals and can evacuate your animals if necessary.
  • Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter and add the veterinarian’s contact information to your emergency kit.
Pet Disaster Checklist
  • Prepare an emergency kit for your pet ahead of time. Keep it where you’ll remember to take it with you.
  • Stock food and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet. Periodically check expiration dates; canned food will keep longer than dry food. Make sure to have plenty of extra water—more than you think you’ll need. Pets (and people) drink more when under stress.
  • For cats: litter box and litter
  • For dogs: plastic bags for poop
  • Medications for at least 2 weeks
  • Medical records, including record of vaccination for rabies and other diseases, prescription medications, and medical history
  • Microchip number
  • Contact information (cell phone, work phone, home phone) of owner and close relative or friends
Practice evacuating your pet
  • Train your pets to be in their carriers by making them comfortable places.
  • Take them for rides in a vehicle similar to one you would be evacuating in. If you do not have a car, make arrangements with neighbors, family, and friends.
  • Know where your pet might hide when stressed or scared. Practice catching your pet, if needed. For cats, you can practice removing your cat from his/her hiding spot and using your cat’s carrier, a pillowcase, a sturdy box—anything to get your cat quickly out of harm’s way.
  • Have your entire family practice evacuating with your pets so everyone knows what to take, where to find the pets, and where to meet.
Sheltering during an evacuation
  • Remember, during a disaster, what is good for you is good for your pet. If you leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured or worse. Never leave a pet chained outdoors.
  • Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets. If accommodations are needed for your pet(s), contact local veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, local animal shelters, family or friends outside the evacuation area, or a pet–friendly hotel, particularly along evacuation routes.
Sheltering in place
  • When sheltering at home with your pet, make sure the room chosen is pet-friendly in the following ways:
    • Select a safe room, preferably an interior room with no (or few) windows.
    • Remove any toxic chemicals or plants.
    • Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck (such as inside vents or beneath heavy furniture).
  • In an emergency, dogs tend to bolt, and cats tend to hide. Be prepared for unusual behavior. If your dog behaves erratically when Fourth of July fireworks go off, expect much more of the same during a quake or fire.
  • Reassure your pet, calmly and often. It’s good for both of you. Pets take their cues from their humans. If you’re panicked, they will be, too.
  • Keep a pet first aid kit on hand, with disinfectant, bandages, tweezers and antibiotic ointment.
  • Have bowls, a leash, a can opener, medicine, pet toys and plenty of cat litter, plastic bags or other cleanup gear ready to use.