Pets and Disaster: Be Prepared
Marion County Emergency Management
The following information has been prepared
by the Humane Society of the United States
in cooperation with the American Red Cross
Our pets enrich our lives in more ways than
we can count. In turn, they depend on us for
their safety and well-being. Here's how you
can be prepared to protect your pets when
Be Prepared with a Disaster Plan
The best way to protect your family from the
effects of a disaster is to have a disaster
plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must
include your pets. Being prepared can save
Different disasters require different
responses. But whether the disaster is a
hurricane or a hazardous spill, you may have
to evacuate your home.
In the event of a disaster, if you must
evacuate, the most important thing you can
do to protect your pets is to evacuate them,
Leaving pets behind, even if you try to
create a safe place for them, is likely to
result in their being injured, lost, or
worse. So prepare now for the day when you
and your pets may have to leave your home.
1. Have a Safe Place To Take Your Pets
Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept
pets because of states' health and safety
regulations and other considerations.
Service animals who assist people with
disabilities are the only animals allowed in
Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if
not impossible, to find shelter for your
animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan
ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to
do your research.
Contact hotels and motels outside your
immediate area to check policies on
accepting pets and restrictions on number,
size, and species. Ask if "no pet" policies
could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list
of "pet friendly" places, including phone
numbers, with other disaster information and
supplies. If you have notice of an impending
disaster, call ahead for reservations.
Ask friends, relatives, or others outside
the affected area whether they could shelter
your animals. If you have more than one pet,
they may be more comfortable if kept
together, but be prepared to house them
Prepare a list of boarding facilities and
veterinarians who could shelter animals in
an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
Ask local animal shelters if they provide
emergency shelter or foster care for pets in
a disaster. Animal shelters may be
overburdened caring for the animals they
already have as well as those displaced by a
disaster, so this should be your last
2. Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster
Whether you are away from home for a day or
a week, you'll need essential supplies.
Keep items in an accessible place and store
them in sturdy containers that can be
carried easily (duffle bags, covered trash
containers, etc.). Your pet disaster
supplies kit should include:
Medications and medical records (stored in a
waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers
to transport pets safely and ensure that
your animals can't escape.
Current photos of your pets in case they get
Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan,
and can opener.
Information on feeding schedules, medical
conditions, behavior problems, and the name
and number of your veterinarian in case you
have to foster or board your pets.
Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.
3. Know What To Do As a Disaster
Often, warnings are issued hours, even days,
in advance. At the first hint of disaster,
act to protect your pet.
Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter
arrangements for you and your pets.
Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies
are ready to take at a moment's notice.
Bring all pets into the house so that you
won't have to search for them if you have to
leave in a hurry.
Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing
collars and securely fastened, up-to-date
identification. Attach the phone number and
address of your temporary shelter, if you
know it, or of a friend or relative outside
the disaster area. You can buy temporary
tags or put adhesive tape on the back of
your pet's ID tag, adding information with
an indelible pen.
You may not be home when the evacuation
order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor
would be willing to take your pets and meet
you at a prearranged location. This person
should be comfortable with your pets, know
where your animals are likely to be, know
where your pet disaster supplies kit is
kept, and have a key to your home. If you
use a petsitting service, they may be
available to help, but discuss the
possibility well in advance.
Planning and preparation will enable you to
evacuate with your pets quickly and safely,
but bear in mind that animals react
differently under stress.
Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs
Transport cats in carriers.
Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they
can run off. The most trustworthy pets may
panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or
When you return home, give your pets time to
settle back into their routines.
Consult your veterinarian if any behavior
About Other Pets
Birds should be transported in a secure
travel cage or carrier. In cold weather,
wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up
the car before placing birds inside. During
warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist
the birds' feathers periodically. Do not put
water inside the carrier during transport.
Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and
vegetables with high water content. Have a
photo for identification and leg bands. If
the carrier does not have a perch, line it
with paper towels and change them
frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a
quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the
cage or carrier.
Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase
but they must be transferred to more secure
housing when they reach the evacuation site.
If your snakes require frequent feedings,
carry food with you. Take a water bowl large
enough for soaking as well as a heating pad.
When transporting house lizards, follow the
same directions as for birds.
Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.)
should be transported in secure carriers
suitable for maintaining the animals while
sheltered. Take bedding materials, food
bowls, and water bottles.
A Final Word
If you must evacuate, do not leave your
animals behind. Evacuate them to a
prearranged safe location if they cannot
stay with your during the evacuation period.
(remember, pets are not allowed in Red Cross
shelters.) If there is a possibility that
disaster may strike while you are out of the
house, there are precautions you can take to
increase your pets' chances of survival, but
they are not a substitute for evacuating
with your pets. For more information,
contact The Humane Society of the United
States, Disaster Services, 2100 L Street NW,
Washington, DC 20037.
In a statement of understanding, The
American Red Cross recognizes The Humane
Society of the United States as the nation's
largest animal protection organization
responsible for the safety and well-being of
animals, including disaster relief. The
American Red Cross is committed to
transforming the caring and concern of the
American people into immediate action.