In Case of Evacuation, is Your Pet Ready?

10-21-09 1 Safety-LogoI’m really pleased to be participating today in’s second annual Pet’Net Safety Event!

In an effort to heighten awareness about critical issues related to pet safety, has organized a consortium of some of the Web’s favorite pet-focused sites (including My Fire Hydrant!) to launch the Pet‘Net Safety Event on Wednesday, October 21. Each participating site and blog is highlighting content devoted to the important topic of pet safety. Petside is hosting a comprehensive one-page hub with links to all of the special coverage–which I recommend that you visit.


A few years ago, a chemical plant not too far from my house had an explosion, and my neighborhood had to quickly evacuate the area. We went first to a friend’s house, but ended up in a motel overnight. It was inconvenient, but more important, it was a frightening eye-opener.

We live in a scary world. Between the weather (Katrina) and terrorism (9/11) it seems to be wise to prepare and plan for the day you may need to evacuate and seek shelter away from your home. In the past few years, one of the most important things we’ve learned is DON’T LEAVE YOUR PET BEHIND.

This may seem like common sense, but it may not be as easy as you think. In an evacuation situation, it will probably be too dangerous to simply camp out in your car. Will the shelter in your area allow pets? Or can you find a motel that will also let you bring in your Great Dane? What if you have very limited time to evacuate–will you remember to grab your dog’s arthritis meds so that she can be comfortable?

You need to prepare. You need a plan, a kit, and some lists.

Sit down with your family members and think this through. Imagine all the possible things that might happen–both man-made and natural. Be overly cautious, and think of the worse possible scenarios. Imagine that you must vacate your home for a couple of weeks. Here are some questions to get you thinking about how your pets fit into your plan:

  • What kind of disasters might effect you? Tornadoes? Hurricanes? Flooding? Chemical spills or explosions?
  • Where will you go if you have to leave home?
  • Has your regional emergency preparedness authorities designated in their planning which shelters will accept pets?
  • Does your local animal shelter/SPCA, or local animal control office have any information on how to plan for your pet’s evacuation in your area?
  • What if you’re not home–is there a neighbor who can evacuate your pets? Where will you meet up with them and your other family members?
  • What about boarding your pet at a pet hotel, your local shelter, or your veterinarians?
  • What supplies does your pet need during an evacuation? What are the bare essentials you need?
  • What steps can you take to keep your pet calm? What if your pet panics and runs away?
  • Can you rehearse your evacuation so that your four-legged family members become familiar with the actions you will need to take?
  • What if the type of disaster restricts you to hour home–where is the safest place in your house? Is there room for your four-legged family along side your two-legged family?
  • Do you have other animals like horses, goats, or cows? What happens to them?

Write your plan down–either on a legal pad on on your laptop. Consult with your veterinarian and your local emergency preparedness team. Refine your plan to account for as many variables as possible. Make sure everybody in the family knows what to do.

Bailey's emergency paperwork lives in a green envelope decorated with Bichons and contains things like her rabies certificate, her dog license receipt, photos of her w/family members, and an overview of her health record. The green envelope stays in the pocket of her carrier.

Bailey’s emergency paperwork lives in a green envelope decorated with Bichons and contains things like her rabies certificate, her dog license receipt, photos of her w/family members, and an overview of her health record. The green envelope stays in the pocket of her carrier.

Think of the things your pet needs each day. This list is just the bare minimum to get you thinking.

  • Pet food
  • Bottled water
  • Medications
  • Paperwork:
    • Veterinary records, including significant medical history, rabies certificate and vaccination record.
    • Proof of ownership.
    • Current photos of your pets (include some with you in the photo too) for identification purposes
  • Cat litter/pan
  • Food dishes
  • First aid kit
  • Crate/carrier/cage labeled with your contact information
  • Comfort items
    • Toys
    • Treats
    • Blankets
  • Leashes, harnesses, collars, muzzles
  • Up-to-date ID tags, rabies tags securely attached to pet’s collar
  • Stakes and tie-outs
  • Paper towel and garbage bags (to clean up after your pet)

This kit list is not complete and focuses on dogs and cats. Birds, reptiles, small rodents like guinea pigs, horses, goats, sheep and other domesticated animals will have different needs.

Again, this is just to get you thinking. It’s not complete.

  • Motels/hotels within a 90-mile radius that will take pets–include directions, address, phone number.
  • Emergency phone numbers, like your veterinarian, your local police department, local fire department, local animal control, your insurance agent.
  • Other phone numbers: Local shelters/rescue groups; friends and family who would be unaffected by an emergency in your region.

Don’t wait. If an evacuation order has been issued, get moving. If its the type of emergency that will restrict you to your home, bring your animals inside and move to your home’s safe area. Don’t delay. Even just a couple of minutes can make a difference in your pet’s survival.

I’ve barely scratched the surface! In researching this article, two sites were incredible information sources.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a very complete disaster preparedness site which includes information not just for consumers, but also for veterinarians. The site is easy-to-understand and there’s an FAQ about the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, a bill signed into law by President Bush in 2006 to require the inclusion of companion animals in disaster planning at state and local levels.

The second site you will want to get familiar with is FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency)–not just for your pets, but also for your family. The FEMA site also offers some free-of-charge web-enabled training, including Animals in Disaster, for which you can receive college credit.

Do it now. Make your plan, make your kit, make your lists before you need them.

One thought on “In Case of Evacuation, is Your Pet Ready?

  1. Jaime

    This is a GREAT post Bev with some really crucial information. Thanks for sharing this with us, its a handy guide that im sure many people will refer to. GREAT post 🙂


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