The Pet Parent’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness


As hurricane season quickly approaches, it is imperative that we take the time now in the months leading up to it, to prepare ourselves and our pets for a natural disaster.

If faced with a sudden disaster, would you be prepared to help your entire family, including pets, avoid dangerous situations? An emergency is an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate reaction. To remain organized and calm, pet parents need to establish plans that will help reduce the severity of an urgent situation. Thorough preparation is essential for the safety of your entire family, including your pets. Appropriate actions vary depending on the specific emergency; however several responses are applicable to most situations.

  • complete pet identification forms for each animal in the household
  • familiarize yourself with city, county, and state emergency plans
  • crate pets before they are able to sense danger to prevent them retreating to challenging hiding places
  • attach alert stickers to your windows and doors to show rescue workers that there are pets in the home that need rescuing
  • plan several evacuation routes with your pets in case a route is blocked

The most important thing you can do for a pet is to purchase simple identification tags; however, since even the best collars can slip off, please consider a microchip as a backup.

Never leave animals behind even if you are not sure where to take them. Also, if you are unable to evacuate before a hurricane, do not attempt to evacuate during a hurricane. Instead, stay indoors in windowless rooms or hallways. It is best to keep your small animals in carriers or confined areas. After the hurricane, dispose of perishable, contaminated or water-soaked pet foods to ensure stray or wild animals are not attracted. Official notices will be given about the safety of the water supply and if there is a “boil water order” in effect, do not drink or give animals tap water unless you know it is safe. Inspect areas where animals are kept for loose wires and avoid any loose or dangling wires you find and report them to the power company. If necessary, make any temporary repairs to prevent further losses, including repair to fencing needed to keep animals confined.

It is important to create an emergency supply kit for your pets to prepare for hurricanes and flash floods. The emergency kit should be kept in a sealed, waterproof bag or container. Your kit should include:

  • a pet identification form with photos, microchip number, and shot records
  • food
  • water
  • veterinarian and emergency contact information (including one contact outside of the emergency area)
  • first aid supplies
  • a three-week supply of medications

In addition to your emergency kit for your pets you should determine sheltering options for you and your animals in the event of a hurricane or flash floods. Be mindful though that some sheltering options might reach full capacity and you may need to plan on going to a second or third option. Consider the following in your area (preferably within a 100-mile radius):

  • motels/hotels/shelters that allow pets
  • boarding kennels
  • veterinary offices with boarding facilities
  • grooming shops
  • dog or horse race track
  • approved areas at fairgrounds or parks

For a smooth and quick evacuation with horses and livestock you should pack portable fencing for a temporary corral and keep a large animal trailer hitched at all times to a dedicated vehicle with a full gas tank. It is best to make arrangements for a temporary shelter ahead of time. Some good options are:

  • parks
  • animal shelters
  • dog or horse race track
  • rodeos
  • fairgrounds
  • family and friends’ homes

The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the welfare of animals, is raising awareness about the importance of comprehensive plans and emergency preparedness to ensure the safety of pets during natural disasters. The NAPPS Emergency Planning Committee has provided a 19-page emergency planning guide that includes specific recommendations for monitoring and coping with tornadoes, thunderstorms, hurricanes, floods, winter storms, extreme heat, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. The manual is available for free download by visiting http://www.petsitters.org/docs/DPPetOwner.pdf This guide includes disaster preparation tips, pet identification forms, disaster preparation checklists, and preparation information for specific natural disasters.

Adapted from information released by the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.

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