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Pets and Disasters Information & Safety Tips

Pets and Disasters

Before Disaster During Disaster After Disaster

Make arrangements for your pets as part of your household disaster planning. 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.


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.

Decide on safe locations in your house where you could leave your pet in an emergency.

Consider easy to clean areas such as utility areas or bathrooms and rooms with access to a supply of fresh water. Avoid choosing rooms with hazards such as windows, hanging plants or pictures in large frames. In case of flooding, the location should have access to high counters that pets can escape to. Set up two separate locations if you have dogs and cats. Buy a pet carrier that allows your pet to stand up and turn around inside. Train your pet to become comfortable with the carrier. Use a variety of training methods such as feeding it in the carrier or placing a favorite toy or blanket inside.

If your pet is on medication or a special diet, find out from your veterinarian what you should do in case you have to leave it alone for several days. Try and get an extra supply of medications.

Including an identification tag that has your name, address, and phone number. If your dog normally wears a chain link "choker" collar, have a leather or nylon collar available if you have to leave him alone for several days. Keep your pet's shots current and know where the records are. Most kennels require proof of current rabies and distemper vaccinations before accepting a pet.

Contact motels and hotels in communities outside of your area and find out if they will accept pets in an emergency.

When assembling emergency supplies for the household, include items for pets.

Extra food (The food should be dry and relatively unappealing to prevent overheating. Store the food in sturdy containers.) Kitty litter Large capacity self-feeder and water dispenser Extra medications Trained Guide Dogs In most states, trained guide dogs for the blind, hearing impaired or handicapped will be allowed to stay in emergency shelters with their owners. Check with local emergency management officials for more information.


Bring your pets inside immediately. 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.

If you evacuate and have to leave your pet at home, prepare a safe location for it.

Leave familiar items such as the pet's normal bedding and favorite toys. Leave a two or three day supply of dry food, even if it's not the pets usual food. The food should not be moistened because it turn rancid or sour. Leave the food in a sturdy container that the pet cannot overturn. Leave the water in a sturdy, no-spill container. If possible, open a faucet slightly and let the water drip into a big container. Large dogs may be able to obtain fresh water from a partially filled bathtub. Replace a chain link "choker" collar with a leather or nylon collar. Make sure the collar has tags and identification. 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.

If you evacuate and plan to take your pets, remember to bring your pet's medical records and medicines with your emergency supplies.

Birds Birds must eat daily to survive. In an emergency, you may have to leave your birds behind. 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 after a disaster you have to leave town, take your pets with you. Pets are unlikely to survive on their own.

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.

The impact of the disasters on pets and other animals is often far more devastating than the impact of the disaster on the human population in the disaster area. Animals are not allowed in shelters, and their owners often have no time to make other arrangements for their pets safety and security before the disaster strikes. After departing from the area of the disaster, the animal owners will often try to re-enter the now secured area of the disaster, only to be stopped by law enforcement personnel whose job it is to prevent people from entering the disaster area. The survival of a beloved pet or valuable livestock then will often depend on the plans that it's owner has made in advance.

Your pets and livestock should have a collar, with tags; or a permanent ID such as a microchip implant or tattoo. If you use a collar and tags make sure that the tag has your current contact information and a rabies tag. A rabies tag is very important because your pet may be put to death if a rabies alert is issued and it is found as a stray without a tag.

If you have to leave your animals behind, set aside at least a five day supply of food and water.

After a disaster first look for your animals around your home. The animal may be traumatized by the disaster and as a result may be hiding. Take a flash light with you, and (if your home is safe to enter) perform a systematic search for the animal looking in all spaces that the animal may fit into. If you do not find your pet, place some dirty laundry around the outside of your home. This may sound a little strange, but your animal knows you as much by your smell as anything else.

Most lost pets will not travel more than a hundred and fifty yards away from your home. Your strategy should be to produce a flyer containing:

A description of the pet ( include color, markings, age, weight, size, and sex) The name of the pet Your name and contact information The location and date the animal was last seen ( use a general description of the area (don't give out your address!)) Indicate if a reward is being offered And a photo of the animal. Take copies of the flyer with you and visit the homes in your neighborhood calling out the name of your pet as you go. Knock on the doors of these houses and ask if the resident has seen the animal and to hand out copies of the flyer. If they are not home leave a copy of the flyer at the house. Many newspapers will place a lost or found notice in the newspaper for free.

If some one calls claiming to have found your pet, take care. Some people try to advantage of situations like this. Unfortunately it is not uncommon that an individual will try to take advantage of the situation by contacting you long disatance and indicating that they need money to send your pet back home to you.

Never go alone to meet anyone who may claim to have found your pet.

Report the lost pet to your local animal shelter and ask them about the holding time for pets. You will want to visit the shelter in person before the pet may be euthanized. Also visit local veterinarian offices, and place copies of the flyer in other locations visited by the public, such as grocery stores, and laundry mats.

After a disaster, shelters will be set up to house found animals. Visit these shelters in person to look for your lost pet or livestock. Bring a photo of the animal or other proof of ownership. Many web sites will be set up after a disaster to assist people in locating missing animals.

Consider holding the animal for animal control to pick up, or take the animal to the local shelter, if you can safely approach the animal. If you decide to care for a lost animal, make efforts to locate the animals owner as you would, if it was your own lost pet. Many animals are never claimed by their owners, whose lives have been affected by disasters. Consider pet adoption after disasters.

Many pets and livestock are never found by their owners after a disaster. They may have been found dead, and their bodies buried to prevent the spread of diseases. For some people the loss of a family pet following a disaster can be a traumatic event which should be cause their family and friends to be as concerned about their well being as they would be if a friend had lost a family member. The Disaster Center has a trauma web page to help deal with the grieving process.

Don't forget to make your plans for dealing with disaster!