Animals are people too. Well, not exactly. But to those of us with beloved pets, they may as well be people. They are certainly valuable members of our families. And in the event of a disaster, we want to ensure their safety like the rest of our family. Whether we are taking them with us as we evacuate our homes, or leaving them behind if we absolutely must, we want to know they will be as safe and comfortable as possible. Taking action to prepare for our pets during a disaster will significantly increase their safety when disaster strikes.

Your task: Prepare an emergency pet plan.

Following a major disaster, you may be forced to evacuate your home or neighborhood, taking your pets with you. Or you may need to shelter in place at your home, protecting your family and pets from the hazards outside. Or, in a worst-case scenario, you may be forced to evacuate, but leave your pets behind. No matter what happens, you want to know your pets are safe for the duration of the emergency.

Evacuating with Your Pets

As we discussed earlier in this series for our human family members, having a kit of prepared supplies that can be quickly taken with you will allow you to evacuate efficiently without forgetting essential supplies. Following are items you should include in your pet evacuation kit:

  • Three or more days of food, canned or dry (sealed). Don’t forget your manual can opener.
  • Three or more days of water. You can supplement your human water supply, but be sure to have a bowl for your pet.
  • A traveling bag or collapsible crate.
  • Recent photos of your pet (in case you are separated).
  • Copies of health/vaccination records.
  • Be sure that your pet licenses and tags are current.
  • Leash, collar/harness, yard stake.
  • Medications.
  • Toys, treats.
  • Poop bags.
  • Pet shampoo.

Sheltering in Place

As discussed in previous issues, during a disaster the resources and services we rely on daily may not be available for hours or days. Emergency services, utilities (water, power), and grocery and pet stores may all be unavailable. Supplement your pet evacuation kit above with additional food and water in your home.

Leaving Your Pet Behind

You don’t want to do it, but the nature of the emergency may simply make evacuating with your pet impossible or unsafe. You may have to leave them at home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps now to maximize their safety and improve the chances of their rescue. Create a checklist with the following steps you can take as you evacuate your home:

  • Leave at least three days’ supply of dry food available to your pet. Yes, they may eat too much too soon, but they won’t starve.
  • Leave at least three days’ water (more if it’s hot) in a sturdy bowl that won’t spill. Leave your toilet seats open if the water is not spoiled.
  • Leave their favorite toys out.
  • Place a sign on your front door or window, visible from the street if possible, letting rescuers know that pets are inside. Your sign should include the number and types of pets in your home, and your veterinarian’s name and phone number. A free pet safety pack, including a sign, can be obtained at the ASPCA website.
  • Leave your contact information and your pets’ health records available in an obvious location inside your home, perhaps attached to your sign.
  • Be sure your pets tags are on in case your pet escapes. Consider having an identification microchip implanted in your pet.
  • When possible, notify your animal control agency that your pets were left behind.