Every disaster plan must include your pets! When disaster strikes they will need you more than usual to care for their needs and provide for their safety.
If you must evacuate your home, it's always best to take your pets with you. For health and space reasons, pets will not be allowed in public emergency shelters. If, as a last resort, you have to leave your pets behind, make sure you have a plan to ensure their care.
Before & During a Disaster
Contact your local animal shelter, humane society, veterinarian or emergency management office for information on caring for pets in an emergency. Find out if there will be any shelters set-up to take pets in an emergency. Also, see if your veterinarian will accept your pet in an emergency. Call ahead to motels and hotels in safe areas to find out if they will allow you to bring your pets. Work with the hotel manager to get "no pets" policies temporarily lifted.
Make sure identification tags are up to date and securely fastened to your pet's collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home. Make sure you have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes.
Prepare a pet survival kit, for each pet, that includes:
- a crate/carrier that is large enough to allow your pet to stand and turn around. Help your pet adjust to the carrier by placing it in the carrier for short periods of time then slowly increase the time.
- an unbreakable dish
- a leash
- any medications and instructions for their use. Find out from your veterinarian what you should do in case you have to leave your pet alone for several days. Try and get an extra supply of medications.
- veterinary records. Most kennels require proof of current rabies and distemper vaccinations before accepting a pet.
- enough food and water for at least one week.
- if you have a cat - kitty litter and cat box
- newspaper, plastic bags, cleaners and disinfectant - for cleaning pet waste
- a list of pet emergency phone numbers that should include your veterinarian and local animal shelters. Place the list in a waterproof container or plastic bag.
- treats and a favorite toy.
- recent photo of your pet.
- a first aid kit that includes:
- bandages (large and small)
- q-tips and cotton balls
- antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide
- elastic tape
- ear cleaning solutions
Consider a second method of identification for your pet: a tattoo or implanted microchip just in case your pets identification tag is lost. These types of ID cannot be lost or removed. See your veterinarian for more information.
If you remain at home during a storm:
- Bring your pet inside immediately. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm. They have instincts about severe weather changes and will isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them in early can stop them from running away.
- Your pet may become agitated and frightened by noises from the storm. Keep your pet within sight of the family to ease their anxiety.
- Use the supplies in your pet survival kit for your pet's food and sanitary needs.
- If you take your pet outside during the storm, leash them. Because of altered scents and landmarks, your pet is more easily lost and confused when outdoors.
- While outside, don't allow your pet to drink water or eat anything that may be contaminated.
If you must leave your pet when you evacuate there are precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger!
- Place a notice outside your residence in a visible location advising what pets are in the house, where they are located, and how you can be reached.
- NEVER leave your pet chained outside.
- For your pets safety, select a safe room such as a closet, bathroom, utility room, or enclosed garage. Keep your pet away from windows if at all possible. Set up separate locations in your home if you have dogs and cats. Don't leave a dog and cat in the same room, even if they get along.
- Leave pet food in sturdy containers accessible to the pet. Do not leave moist food, as it may turn rancid or sour.
- Fill the bathtub or non-spillable containers with water, so your pet has plenty to drink.
- If your pet has a chain link "choker" collar, replace it with a leather or nylon collar. Remember to place ID tags on the new collar.
- Never tranquilize your pet. If left alone, they need to be alert at all times to use their survival instincts to escape danger.
After a Disaster
For a few days after a disaster, leash your pets when they go outside. Maintain close contact. Snakes and other dangerous animals may be brought into the area with flood waters. Downed power lines are also a hazard. Remember, if your pet is loose they may become disoriented because familiar scents and landmarks may be altered by the disaster.
Your pets behavior may change after a disaster. Your quiet, friendly pet may become aggressive and/or defensive. Watch your pets closely and call your veterinarian if the changes become worse or don't dissipate after a few days.
After any disaster, there are many lost pets.
- To find the owner of a lost pet, call the local shelters to let them know that you have found an animal and give them any pertinent information about the animal.
- If you have lost a pet that has an ID tag, tattoo or microchip, you will be called (if the phones are working) if your pet is brought to a shelter. If your pet has no identification, you will need to visit the local shelters to see if your pet has been found.
Other Types of Pets/Animals
Electrical power could go off and stop the aeration pump in the fish tank. If the tank has an adapter, the pump can be operated by battery.
You can transport hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, and other small mammals in carriers that they can stay in while at the boarding location. Take food, water, bowls, bottles, bedding, and other necessary items.
Birds and Lizards
Birds need to be transported in secure travel cages or carriers without water. Keep the cage covered and in a quiet area. Don't let the bird out of the cage. Place a leg band or microchip on the bird for identification purposes. Bring medicine, medical records, water, food, toys, newspaper/cage lining, and cleaning supplies.
An excellent transport carrier for snakes is a pillowcase. Once you reach the boarding location, immediately transfer the snake to a more secure cage. Bring enough food, a water bowl, and heating pad.
Never attempt to capture a wild animal unless you have the training, protective clothing, restraint equipment and caging necessary to perform the job.
Wildlife 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, don't panic. Open a window or other escape route and the animal will probably leave on its own.
Mosquitoes and dead animal carcasses may present disease problems after a disaster. Contact your local emergency management office for help.
If you see an injured or stranded animal or you need help with evicting an animal from your home, contact your local animal control office or animal shelter.
Evacuate livestock whenever possible. Arrangements for evacuation should be made in advance. Alternate routes should be mapped out in case the planned route is inaccessible.
The evacuation sites should have or be able to readily obtain food, water, veterinary care, handling equipment and facilities.
Vehicles suitable for transporting livestock should be available along with experienced handlers and drivers to transport them. Whenever possible, the animals should be accustomed to these vehicles in advance so they're less frightened and easier to move.
If evacuation is not possible, a decision must be made whether to move large animals to available shelter or turn them outside. This decision should be determined based on the type of disaster and the soundness and location of the shelter.
All animals should have some form of identification that will help facilitate their return.
Sources: FEMA & others