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 too. If it's not safe for you to stay behind then it's not safe to leave pets behind either. Take action now so you know how to best care for your furry friends when the unexpected occurs.
Find a Safe Place That Can Shelter Your Pets
Many emergency shelters do not allow animals. Plan in advance of an emergency for accommodations for your pets.
- Contact hotels and motels outside your local area to check their policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask if "no pet" policies can be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with your disaster supplies.
- Ask friends, relatives or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals.
- Make 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 during a disaster.
Make a Go Bag for Your Pet
In the event of an emergency, make sure you have all of the supplies your pet will need in an easy to carry container, like a backpack, duffle bag or covered plastic bin. Your pet Go Bag 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 lost.
- Food, drinkable water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual 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 bed or toys, if easily transportable.
Protect Your Pet During A Disaster
- Bring your pets inside immediately.
- Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes. Feed animals moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink.
- Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.
- Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally. Keep small pets away from cats and dogs.
- In an emergency, you may have to take your birds with you. Talk with your veterinarian or local pet store about special food dispensers that regulate the amount of food a bird is given. Make sure that the bird is caged and the cage is covered by a thin cloth or sheet to provide security and filtered light.
- If you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.
- If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.
- Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can't care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
Caring For Your Pet After A Disaster
- In the first few days after the disaster, leash your pets when they go outside. Always maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost. Also, snakes and other dangerous animals may be brought into the area with flood areas. Downed power lines are a hazard.
- The behavior of your pets may change after an emergency. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely. Leash dogs and place them in a fenced yard with access to shelter and water.
Help Emergency Workers Help Your Pets
The ASPCA recommends using a rescue sticker placed on a prominent surface on the outside of your home to let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers and that it includes the types and number of pets in your household and your veterinarian's phone number.
If you must evacuate with your pets (and if time allows) write "EVACUATED" across the stickers so rescue workers don’t waste time looking for them.