If an earthquake, tornado or hurricane were to suddenly rip through your neighborhood, would you be ready? You might have a plan to ensure your family’s safety, but what about your pets? What would you do with your dog or cat if you had to evacuate; what supplies would you need to keep them safe during the ordeal? Every pet owner needs the tools and information necessary to prepare for large scale emergencies and natural disasters—because it very well could save your dog or cat’s life. Don’t let a disaster catch you unprepared: here’s how to keep your pet safe during extreme weather and other emergencies.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
First things first, you need to prep an emergency kit of supplies, as you likely won’t have time to assemble one in the event of an actual disaster. Store this kit close to your preferred exit, and make sure everyone in the home knows its location ahead of time. While it’s important to be thorough with your supplies, make sure the kit remains light enough to be easily portable. At the minimum, here’s what your kit should contain:
- Durable leashes/harnesses/carriers/collars for each pet
- Additional tags, with personal and vet contact information
- Pet Blanket
- Food for several days
- Water for several days
- Collapsible food/water bowl
- Necessary medications, medical records, and a waterproof bag to keep them in (most facilities require vaccination documentation before admitting pets)
- Small, pet-specific first aid kit
- A photo of you and your pet to verify ownership
- Thundershirts in the event your pet is easily frightened
- Non-toxic insect repellent
- A short, instructional care sheet: including feeding & medication schedules, behavior issues, and contact info for your vet
Never Stay at Home When an Evacuation Order is Given
If an evacuation order has been given, never stay at home with your pet just because you have no place to take them. This is unsafe and potentially life threatening for both you and your pet. To avoid a situation like this, you need to arrange accommodations for your pet before any such emergency occurs. More on that below.
Make an Evacuation Plan and Practice It
Once disaster strikes, it’s too late to make and execute an evacuation plan efficiently. If you’re a pet owner, you should outline an evacuation plan and route as soon as possible, and begin practicing it soon thereafter. It’s a good idea to include your pet in these practice sessions, so they won’t be startled when it comes time to enact them. At the minimum, your evacuation plans should include:
- A plan to bring your pet inside at the first sign of an emergency or extreme weather. This goes for official weather and emergency broadcast warnings, too
- A clearly chosen route of escape from your area, with one backup route at minimum, including a list of pet-friendly hotels along the way
- Verifying that your pet’s collar and tags remain intact and up to date just before leaving
- Remembering to collect the emergency kit you prepared for your pet in advance
- Calling and reserving, or verifying, any necessary boarding plans with your chosen facility, hotel or loved one
- Letting friends, loved ones and neighbors know that you’ve safely evacuated with your pet
- A plan of escape that allows you, your pet and family to evacuate in under 30 minutes in the event of immediate disaster
Arrange a Safe House For Your Pet
Knowing where to take your pet during a disaster is arguably the most important step in prepping your pet for an emergency. Most public storm shelters do not allow pets, so you’ll need to make other arrangements long in advance. First, contact your vet to inquire about local kennels and shelters that foster pets during emergencies. Second, see if any friends or relatives would be willing to care for your cat or dog in the event of an evacuation. Third, make a list of pet-friendly hotels along your evacuation route. At the minimum, have a primary safe house and a backup just in case. Tip: If your safe house options include a friend or relative’s home, take your pet there beforehand so they can familiarize themselves with the environment and their temporary caregivers.
Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
A rescue alert sticker is an easy precaution to take in order to help protect your pet from possible disaster. These simple decals let rescue workers know how many and what types of pets are in your home. Rescue alert stickers should be placed in a highly visible location, such as the front door. While alert stickers can be purchased at most local pet shops, the ASPCA offers them free through their website, which can be found here. Tip: if you and your pets are forced to evacuate in the face of an emergency, write “evacuated” on your alert sticker to let rescuers know you’ve already left.
Closely Monitor Your Pet After the Disaster
For pets, the days following a disaster can be just as stressful and dangerous as the disaster itself. Their normal living environment might suddenly look and smell differently, which can be disorienting. For these reasons, you need to pay special attention to your pet after a disaster. At the minimum, monitor the following:
- Aggressive behavior is not uncommon following a traumatic experience like extreme weather. For both your pet and others’ safety, closely watch your cat or dog when around other animals and people soon after a disaster.
- During a disaster, things like fencing and gates might have been damaged. To prevent your pet from getting lost, keep them close until you can check that all such structures remain intact or are repaired.
- Following a natural disaster, your home and yard will likely look much different than they did before. From harmful debris to spilled pollutants like pesticides, the area surrounding your home could be littered with potential hazards. Do a sweep—checking for possible dangers—before you let your pet back inside or outside your home after a disaster.
Additional Tips for Weathering a Disaster With Pets
- Stay calm during an emergency situation—pets picks up on our energy and will react based on how you react
- Take your pet to any facilities they might frequent during an emergency, acclimate them to the surroundings and staff if possible
- Double check that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date
- Consider microchipping your pet for additional protection in case they become lost
- Choose an alternative caregiver who can go to your home and collect your pets in case an emergency occurs while you’re not at home.