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. 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 & your pets may have to leave your home.
Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because
of health & safety regulations. Service animals who assist
people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross
shelters. So plan ahead for where you will house your pets in
- Contact hotels/motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets & any restrictions they may have. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places including phone numbers with other disaster supplies. Call ahead for reservations if you have notice of an impending disaster.
- Ask friends, relatives or others outside the affected area if 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 separately.
- 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 resort.
Assemble a disaster supplies kit for your pets.
Keep it in an accessible place, stored in a sturdy container that
is easily carried (duffle bag, for example). This kit should include:
- Medications & medical records in a waterproof container.
- First aid kit.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure they can't run off.
- Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
- Food, portable water, bowls, cat litter/pan and can opener.
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name & number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
- Pet beds & toys, if easily transportable.
Often, warnings are issued hours or days in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pets.
- Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you & 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 you won't have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
- Make sure all dogs & cats are wearing collars with current identification securely attached. If you know the address & phone number of your temporary shelter, attach it to their collar.
You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. If possible, make arrangements with a trusted neighbor to pick up your pets & meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where they are, know where your disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet-sitting service, they may be able to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
Remember that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home & in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Don't leave animals unattended. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, and try to escape or even bite or scratch. When you return home, give pets time to settle back into their routine.
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. In warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the bird's feathers periodically. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits & vegetables with high water content, but do not put water in the carrier. Have a photo for ID and leg bands. Do not let birds out of the cage or carrier.
Evacuate livestock whenever possible. Make arrangements for evacuating, including routes & host sites, in advance. Alternate routes should be planned out & mapped in case the planned route is inaccessible.
Trucks, trailers & other vehicles appropriate for transporting each specific type of animal should be available along with experienced handlers/drivers. Whenever possible, these animals should become accustomed to these vehicles in advance so they're less frightened & easier to move.
If evacuation is not possible, you must make a decision whether to move large animals to available shelter or turn them outside. This decision should be based on the type of disaster and the soundness & location of the shelter (structure).
All animals should have some type of identification that will help facilitate their return.
Wild animals often seek higher ground that during floods becomes partially submerged forming an island and stranding animals. If the island is large enough and provides suitable shelter, you can leave food appropriate to the species (i.e.-sunflower seeds for squirrels). Animals will flee from anyone approaching too closely. If an animal threatens to rush into the water, back away.
Wild animals often seek refuge from flood waters on upper levels of a home and may remain inside even after the water recedes. If you meet a rat or snake face to face, be careful but don't panic. Open a window or other escape route and the animal will probably leave on his own. Never attempt to capture a wild animal unless you have the training, protective clothing, restraint equipment and caging necessary to perform the job.
Be aware that the number of snakes & other predators may increase in the area as they try to feed on the carcasses of drowned or crushed reptiles, amphibians & small mammals.
Mosquitoes & animal carcasses often present disease problems during natural disasters. Contact your local emergency management office for help.
If you see an injured or stranded animal in need of assistance or you need help with removing an animal from your home, please contact your local animal control office or animal shelter.
**Information on this page compiled from "Pets and Disasters: Get Prepared" by the American Red Cross & the Humane Society of the United States. Copies of this booklet are available at the DES office in the county courthouse.