Animals in Disasters
Updated: Feb 14
Disasters come in many forms, and each type requires different measures to keep your pets safe. The best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared and have a plan. As a result of legislation, State, Territorial, Tribal, and local emergency preparedness plans must now account for the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency. However, you are ultimately responsible for the animals under your protection. You should have a comprehensive emergency response plan and a go-bag for the family, including a bag that caters for your animals.
Owners will need to provide food and water for their service animal during an emergency, both at home and if staying in an emergency shelter. Also, when preparing your go-bag, there may be no access to veterinary care. During times when resources are scarce, brutal decision making may be enforced in order to reduce the impact of a disaster. Therefore, owners will need to plan accordingly.
Assembling a disaster kit is first step to prepare for an immediate disaster, it should contain basic necessities, important information and items you can use at home or take with you in the event of an evacuation.
• Store your disaster kit in an area where it can easily be retrieved.
• Check the contents of the disaster kit twice a year.
• Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every periodically.
Suggested items for your pets in your disaster kit include:
• First aid kit.
• Paper towels, plastic bags, and spray disinfectant for animal waste cleanup.
• Extra collars and tags, harnesses, and leashes for all pets (including cats).
• Copies of your pet’s medical and vaccination records.
• Boarding facilities may not accept your pets without proof of health.
• A 2-week supply of medication, along with a copy of the current prescription.
• A recent photo of you with your pet.
• Food, water, and bowls for each pet.
3-day supply for evacuations, and a 2-week supply for sheltering-in-place at home.
• A crate or traveling carrier large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around.
Label the crate with your pet’s name, your name, and where you can be reached.
Leaving your pet or service animal behind in a disaster may decrease their chance of survival. Be aware, animals tied up outside (or left loose to fend for themselves) may be euthanized and treat as abandoned. However, some circumstances may force you to leave your animal behind as a last resort. If you must leave without them, you should leave them in your home and follow the below guidelines:
• Unfamiliar foods and treats may cause intestinal problems or promote overeating.
• Leave a heavy bowl that cannot be tipped over.
• Post clear labels for rescue workers about the animals they will encounter.
• Make sure somebody knows where you can be contacted and what the needs and
location of your household pet(s) and service animal(s) are.
An unfamiliar atmosphere following a disaster can disorientate animals and they can easily get confused and get lost. Current photographs of your pets or service animal will help identify them after a disaster. You should also send photos of your animals to your out-of-state friends or relatives. Also, dogs and cats should wear a collar tag or have an up-to-date microchip with your name, address, phone number, and emergency phone number.
For further information about emergency go-bag preparation, click here