Planning for Pets

Tornados, floods, wildfires, ice storms, hazardous material spills—disasters can strike anytime, anywhere. If you think you will never have to evacuate unless you live in a floodplain, near an earthquake fault line, or in a coastal area, you may be tragically mistaken. It is imperative that you make preparations to evacuate your family and your pets in any situation.

There are steps that you can take to be better prepared to care for your pets in a disaster.  As your family plans or prepares to evacuate, you also need to prepare supplies for your pet. Stock up on non-perishables well ahead of time, and have everything ready to go at a moment's notice. Keep everything accessible, stored in sturdy containers (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.) that can be carried easily.  If you reside in an area prone to certain seasonal disasters, such as flooding or hurricanes that might require evacuation, create a kit to keep in your car. 

Pet Disaster Kit 1 (Stay or Evacuation)

Just as you do with your family’s emergency supply kit, consider about the basics for survival, particular food and water.  The first kit involves staying where you are.  It should be stored in an easily accessible location away from areas with temperature extremes. Replace the food and water as often as needed to maintain their quality and freshness and in accordance with the expiration dates

  • Food for each pet for 3-5 days, bowls, and a manual can opener if the kit contains canned pet food.  Other food should be in an airtight, waterproof container

  • Water for each pet for 3-5 days for each pet, and water bowls.  The water will be in gallon plastic containers.

  • Manual can opener and spoon

Pet Disaster Kit 2 (Evacuation)

The second kit contains items that you take with you if you have to leave. 

·         Extra Supply of Medications and medical records, including the vaccination document, that the pet takes on a regular basis and stored in a waterproof container

  • First Aid Kit which is based your veterinarian advise about emergency medical needs for your pet.  Be sure to include a pet first aid book.  Some typical items are should be cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. .

·         ID tag with a sturdy Collar or Harnesses, Leash, and rabies tag, if required, should be worn by the pet. Sometimes pets panic.  Include a complete extra set in case of breakage.  The objective is to ensure that your pet is not lost.  Be sure the identification tag is current and properly fastened.  Consider adding your cell phone number.  If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home.  Many reptiles may be marked with a permanent felt-tipped marker

·         Current photos and descriptions (species, breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics) of your pets with you to help others identify them in case your pets and you become separated and to prove ownership. These should be in a waterproof container or bag.

  • Transportation Crate or Pet Carrier will be very helpful if you are evacuating. The container should be sturdy, safe, comfortable and ready.  It should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, lie down, litter pan (cats), and two small dishes for water and food.  Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time while you are away from home. Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it to accommodate smaller pets. These may require blankets or towels for bedding and warmth, and other special items.  Easily read identification should be located on the crate or carrier.  Owning enough carriers helps with a speedy evacuation and may mean the difference between life or death of your pet.  Take the container out several times a year and put dog or cats treats inside with blankets and toys and allow your pet to access. By doing this, you hope to reinforce positive feelings associated with the animal carrier.

·         Litter Box and Litter, if your animal uses such.  In addition have garbage bags to collect all pets' waste, and litter scoop.  

·         Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.

·         Information about your pets' name, feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in a public animal shelter.

  • Muzzles (dog or cat)

·         Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items and household bleach. 

Find a Safe Place Ahead of Time

Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of states' health and safety regulations and other considerations. Service animals who assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.

Because evacuation shelters generally don't accept pets (except for service animals), you must plan ahead to make certain your family and pets will have a safe place to stay. Don't wait until disaster strikes to do your research.


  • All mobile home residents should evacuate at the first sign of a disaster.

  • Evacuate to the safest location you can that’s as close as possible to home. Long-distance evacuation can be a problem when highways are crowded.

·         Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size and species. Inquire if the "no pet" policies would be waived in an emergency. For the calls develop a list of animal-friendly places and keep it handy. Call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.

·         Check with friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area. Ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals or just your animals or just you, if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them at separate locations but near the home.

  • Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices near their homes or areas that to which you might evacuate that might be able to shelter animals in emergencies; include 24-hour telephone numbers.  Note that most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet’s medical records to insure that all vaccinations are current.  These records should be in your pet disaster kit.

  • Ask the animal shelter if it provides foster care or public shelter for pets in an emergency. This should be your last resort, as shelters have limited resources and are likely to be stretched to their limits during an emergency.

If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger! Confine your pet to a safe area inside -- NEVER leave your pet chained outside! Leave them loose inside your home with food and plenty of water.  Remove the toilet tank lid, raise the seat and brace the bathroom door open so they can drink. Place a notice outside in a visible area, advising what pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached as well as the name and number of your vet.

In Case You're Not Home

An evacuation order may come, or a disaster may strike, when you're at work or out of the house.

Make arrangements well in advance for a trusted neighbor to take your pets and meet you at a specified location. Be sure the person is comfortable with your pets and your pets are familiar with him/her, knows where your animals are likely to be, knows where your disaster supplies are kept and has a key to your home.  If you use a pet-sitting service, it may be able to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

When You Evacuate, Take Your Pets With You

The single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you when you evacuate. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. Animals left inside your home can escape through storm-damaged areas, such as broken windows. Animals turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents. Leaving dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster is a death sentence.

If you leave, even if you think you may only be gone for a few hours, take your animals. When you leave, you have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets.

Leave early—don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. An unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you may be told to leave your pets behind.

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.

Evacuate your family, including your animals, as early as possible. By leaving early, you will decrease the chance of becoming victims of the disaster.  Start with bring your dogs, cats, and other small animals indoors.  Make sure all animals have some form of identification securely fastened to them (or their cage, in the case of smaller, caged pets). Place all small pets, including cats and small dogs, inside individual transportable carriers. when stressed, animals that normally get along may become aggressive towards each other.  Secure leashes on all large dogs.  Call your prearranged animal evacuation site to confirm availability of space.

Load your larger animal cages/carriers into your vehicle. These will serve as temporary housing for your animals if needed. Load the animal kits and supplies into your vehicle. If time permits, secure or remove all outdoor objects that may turn into dangerous flying debris.

If You Don't Evacuate, Shelter in Place for the Impending Storm

If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Be sure to close your windows and doors, stay inside, and follow the instructions from your local emergency management office.

Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say there is an imminent problem. Keep pets under your direct control; if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.  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 other small pets away from cats and dogs.

If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet's crate, newspapers for sanitary purposes, and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies. If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door, or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape.  Listen to the radio or TV periodically, and don't come out until you know it's safe.

After the Storm

Survey the area inside and outside your home to identify sharp objects, dangerous materials, dangerous wildlife, contaminated water, or other hazards.  Also, snakes and other dangerous animals may be brought into the area with flood areas. Downed power lines and their corresponding power circles on a ground are a hazard.

Since your home may be a very different place afterward, whether you have taken shelter at home or elsewhere, as familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused or lost.  Don't allow your pets to roam loose.  Pets can easily get lost in such situations.  While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and keep cats in carriers inside the house.  If your house is damaged, they could escape and become lost.  Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive.  Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be ready for behavioral problems that may result from the stress of the situation. If behavioral problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.

Be prepared for the possible disruption of utility services (electric, phone, water, sewage) and food delivery for extended periods of times.

Examine your animals closely, and contact your veterinarian immediately if you observe injuries or signs of illness. Release birds and reptiles only if necessary and only when they are calm and in an enclosed room.  Reintroduce food in small servings, gradually working up to full portions if animals have been without food for a prolonged period of time. Allow uninterrupted rest/sleep for all animals to recover from the trauma and stress. 

If your animals are lost, physically check animal control and animal shelters daily for lost animals. Post waterproof lost animal notices and notify local law enforcement, animal care and control officials, veterinarians, and your neighbors of any lost animals (utilize online resources for lost and found animals).

Evacuation other Pets - Birds

Transportation of pet birds is best accomplished using small, secure, covered carriers to avoid injury. If traveling in cold weather, always warm the interior of your vehicle before moving your bird(s) from the house to the vehicle.   Transfer your bird(s) to a standard cage upon arrival at the evacuation site; covering the cage may reduce stress; this transfer should occur in a small, enclosed room to reduce the risk of escape.  Birds should be kept in quiet areas and not allowed out of the cage in unfamiliar surroundings. Fresh food and water should be provided daily.  If your bird appears ill, be sure to lower the cage perch, food dish, and water bowl and consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

In addition to the pertinent items listed under small animal evacuation kit, include:

·         Necessary dietary supplements

  • Plant mister for cooling birds in hot weather

  • Hot water bottle for warming birds in cold weather

  • Materials to line the bottom of the cage

  • Cage perch

  • Toys

Evacuation other Pets - Reptiles

Transportation of small reptiles can be accomplished using a pillowcase, cloth sack, or small transport carrier.  If possible, promote defecation before transporting the animal (for example allow tortoises, lizards, or snakes to soak in a shallow water bath before bagging or caging).

Transfer your pet to a secure cage at the evacuation site as soon as possible and if appropriate.

In addition to the pertinent items listed under small animal evacuation kit, include: essential dietary supplements

·         Water bowl for soaking

  • Spray bottle for misting

  • Extra bags or newspapers

  • Heating pad

  • Battery-operated heating source or other appropriate heat source

  • Extra batteries

  • Appropriate handling gloves/supplies

Since most reptiles do not eat daily, feeding during evacuation circumstances may increase stress. Determine if feeding is in the animal’s best interest, especially if the container may become fouled. Housing at the evacuation facility should be consistent with that required by the reptile. The enclosure should, if possible, be placed in a controlled environment, away from areas of heavy traffic, loud noises, and vibrations.  Transportation of these species may require additional attention and care in order to decrease chances of stress-induced illness and death. it is important to keep pets from different sources as separate as possible and maintain the best possible hygiene in order to decrease disease transmission. other appropriate heat source

Evacuation other Pets – Amphibians

Transportation of amphibians can be accomplished by using watertight plastic bags, such as the ones used for pet fish transport, or plastic containers, such as plastic shoeboxes or plastic food containers with snap-on lids.  It is best to place only one species or if possible only one animal per container. Small ventilation holes should be placed in the upper wall or plastic lid.  Smooth the inner surface of the holes with a file or sandpaper to prevent injury to the animal.  For terrestrial or semi aquatic amphibians use a tiny amount of water, or moistened paper towels, clean foam rubber, or moss as a suitable substrate.  For aquatic species, fill the plastic bag one third full of water, then inflate the bag with fresh air and close with a knot or rubber band. it is best to use clean water from  The animal’s enclosure to minimize physiologic stress.  Care must be taken to monitor water and air temperature, humidity, lighting, and nutrition during the time that the animal will be in the evacuation facility.  Housing at the evacuation facility should be consistent with that required by the amphibian.  The enclosure should, if possible, be placed in a controlled environment, away from areas of heavy traffic, loud noises, and vibrations.  Make sure that the container housing the amphibian is escape proof. Nonetheless, plan for escapes.  Take an extra container of water, clean moist paper towels or clean moss as is appropriate in case any of your pet’s containers break or leak.  Feeding during evacuation circumstances may increase stress so it may not be in the animal’s best interests to supply food, especially if the water may become fouled.

Evacuation other Pets - Other Small Animals

Transportation of most small mammals (ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, etc.) is best accomplished using a secure, covered carrier or cage to reduce stress.

In addition to the pertinent items listed under small animal evacuation kit, include:

  • Necessary dietary supplements

  • Extra bedding materials

  • Appropriate exercise equipment