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Emergency Planning -- Protecting Your Pets

By Robin Tierney

NOTE: The content on this website cannot be used in connection with any profit-seeking activity due to agreements with the writers, editors and sources contributing to the content. These articles may NOT be reproduced in any form without author permission. To contact the author, email Robin at Tierneydog@yahoo.com.

Being prepared is critical to saving your pets when disaster strikes. The following tips include information from the Humane Society of the United States, the American Red Cross, United Animal Nations and other sources.

Prepare Now:

* Print out the helpful brochure "Preparing Yourself and Your Companion Animal for Disasters," which includes a handy Pet Identification Card. You can download the free brochure and card in an easy-to-print format at

* Always keep a collar and tag on your dog or cat. (For cats, we recommend break-away collars designed to slip over a cat's head if the collar gets caught on something.) On the tag, include your phone number and address in case the phones are not working. Tags should display the number of your emergency quarters (see below). In addition, microchipping and/or tattooing offer a more permanent form of I.D. to use in addition to collar I.D. tags. There are pet I.D. services that provide a central toll-free number you can display on a tag, which can be very useful in an emergency.

* Find safe places you can take your animals before disaster strikes. Red Cross shelters (and many other shelters) do not admit animals, other than recognized service dogs. So look in advance for lodging that will accept animals during disasters, and note any restrictions. Possibilities include hotels, motels, boarding kennels, veterinary clinics, dog training clubs, and friends and family. Keep phone numbers handy, and if you hear of an impending disaster, call for reservations. Animal shelters typically will not have room due to animals currently in their care and those displaced by a disaster.

* Assemble a Portable Pet Supply Kit. Keep kit items together in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.). Use water-proof containers for items that can be damaged by water. Items to include:

** Food. Store a two-week supply of pet food (check shelf life date) in an airtight/waterproof container. For canned food, buy flip-top cans. Keep treats and chew toys on hand to help calm animals during stressful times.

** Bottled or purified water. Store a two-week supply in gallon containers. For example, a 40-pound dog needs at least a gallon of water a day, and cats require a quart. Keep containers out of sunlight to avoid algae growth. Rotate the water at least once a month. Flood water or other water sources may be contaminated in a disaster. If officials issue a "boil water" warning, tap water will not be healthy to drink.

** Can opener, bowls, an extra collar, a 10-foot leash, brush, some toys, plastic bags and/or pooper-scooper.

** Copies of the pet's license, rabies certificate, other pet records, notes about feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior problems, and vet contact information. Store along with your driver's license in a waterproof container.

** A two-week supply of pet medications. If your pet is high-strung, ask your vet about tranquilizers to keep in the kit. If any medication needs refrigeration, keep an ice cooler ready.

** Animal first aid book and first aid kit. For first aid kit contents and guidance, go to the link for the First Aid Dog Tip at the end of this tipsheet. Keep the first aid kit accessible in your home and in your car while traveling.

Remember, an injured animal might try to bite out of fear, so you can use the gauze roll and tape as a muzzle in case you need to treat a wound or injury. You can also use gauze to stabilize the joint above and below a possibly injured joint, and to stem any bleeding. Towels can also be used for these situations. See the first aid webpage listed below for details.

** A written list of contact information for places to which you can take your animals in the event they are injured during a disaster. Ask your vet and local humane society for this information.

** Photos of each of your animals, including distinguishing markings, to help in finding a lost animal. Store the pictures in resealable plastic bags in case you need to post them in wet weather. Also, pack a photo of family members with the animals, which may be needed to prove the pets are yours.

** Blanket or quilt to protect you and your pets from winds, flying glass or other debris.

** Flashlight, weather radio, fresh batteries in resealable plastic bags, and cell phone with charger. (Have copies of vital personal papers and items ready to go as well.)

** Carrier or crate. An "Evacsak" offers a safe way to transport a small animal while taking up less space than carriers (www.evacsak.net). Place a shoe box-size litter box and a food and a water dish in a cat carrier. Mark your contact information on pet carriers and other items.

* Have a leash and harness ready for each of your dogs. A harness will allow you to control a frightened dog. You may want to get a harness and leash for cats too. To avoid injury, do not leave pets unattended on leash.

* Keep your pet's vaccinations up to date. During times of crisis, pets get loose and become exposed to infectious diseases.

* Line up trusted neighbors, relatives or friends ahead of time who can take in your pets in case of emergency. Set up a buddy system with neighbors, so you can check on one another's animals during a disaster. Exchange phone numbers, emergency contact info, vet information and house-keys. Have a set of photos of your pets accessible to your contacts in case a pet gets loose. Have a permission slip put in your vet file so that your vet will know who can authorize necessary emergency treatment for your animal.

If you use a petsitter, provide a plan to be used to care for your animals in case of emergency. For example, the owner might arrange to call the petsitter by 6 p.m. to confirm that the owner plans to return by a certain time, and upon returning will call the petsitter. If the petsitter does not hear from the owner, then the petsitter would know to take action (for example, returning to the owner's home to feed and walk or to evacuate the pets).

* Keep a card in your wallet with emergency contact information so people will know you have pets at home in case you are injured.

* Place "Pets Inside" safety stickers in windows so emergency personnel and neighbors will know that pets live in your home.

* On days when storms are forecast, be sure to leave ample supplies of food and especially water within reach of your animals.

* Know where area animal shelters are in case a pet gets loose. Start searching immediately, as shelters often cannot house large numbers of displaced animals for very long.

* Avoid boarding your animal in a facility that is in a flood zone, since you may be prevented from getting your pet in the event of a storm. Also ask if the facility is staffed 24 hours a day.

* Identify a sheltered area in your home for you and your pets in case you are stranded there. This might be under a stairway, a basement, or an interior room away from windows. Learn how to turn off the gas and electricity in your home.

If Disaster Strikes:

* Call ahead to confirm emergency lodging arrangements for you and your pets. Have your pet disaster supply kit ready to go.

* Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing secure collars with up-to-date I.D. Add the phone number and address of your temporary lodging or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area. Buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet's everyday I.D. tag, adding information with an indelible pen.

* Do your best to take your animals with you, and remember your disaster plan.

* Plan ahead in case you cannot get home before it is time to evacuate. Contact the people with access to your home to pick up your pets and emergency supply kit, and arrange to meet them at a prearranged location.

* If pets are left behind, be sure to leave large quantities of food and water accessible to the animals even if you think you will be gone only a day. Arrange for someone to pick up the pets in case you cannot return to the house.

* Comfort your animals during a disaster. If an animal is frightened, let him or her come to you when ready. You might feed a pet less than usual to lessen the chance of diarrhea.

* Use caution when handling injured pets. Any animal may bite when nervous or hurt. A decrease in normal body temperature can indicate shock. If shock is suspected, keep your pet calm, and wrap in blankets or towels to maintain his body temperature. Seek veterinary help as soon as possible.

Check your pet's temperature with a rectal thermometer. Lightly coat the thermometer with lubricant developed for this purpose. Leave the thermometer inside the rectum for one to two minutes. Normal temperature for a dog is 102, and 101 for a cat. A significant increase could mean a fever. A decrease in the normal body temperature can indicate shock. If shock if suspected, keep your pet calm and quiet, and wrap him in blankets or towels to maintain his body temperature. Seek veterinary help as soon as possible for illness or injuries.

* Don't delay. Act when you hear emergency warnings or sirens. You need the time to save yourself and your pets.

* If you know a disaster victim who has pets, find out if someone is taking care of the pets. Check with neighbors or a rental manager. Post a note on the door of the residence asking to be contacted if nobody else is taking care of the pets. If you think pets may be stranded inside a home and you don't have a key, notify the nearest animal shelter.


First Aid Guidance and Kits:


Will Planning and Pet Trusts


Disaster preparedness mobile app:

Disaster Preparedness:

Red Rover emergency animal rescue services:


Animal Hospital Locator:


For more Dog Tips and other information about pet care, adoption and the work PAW does,
visit our website at: www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc.
P.O. Box 1074
Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport