How to Help Your Pets in an Emergency or Natural Disaster
If you’re ever in an emergency situation, the key is to remain as calm as possible. Staying calm will help you think clearly about the actions you must take, and it will also help your pets to stay calm, since pets react to their humans’ anxiety levels.
What to do next depends on the situation. If your pets are outdoors, it is best to bring them inside and put them in an enclosed room so that, if necessary, you can easily crate them for evacuation. Keep leashes and leads handy so that you can get them out of their crates safely for bathroom stops.
If local officials indicate that a major threat will impact your area and evacuation is likely, you’ll want to ensure that you have plenty of time to find and secure your pets, so don’t wait until the last minute to start the evacuation process. Be aware that your pets’ behavior during and after an emergency evacuation may be different from their behavior during the normal daily routine. Pets may become highly stressed as the danger nears, so be extra cautious when handling them because they may be scared, try to escape or bite.
During evacuation, keep an eye out for hazards such as chemicals on the ground or in floodwater, and debris such as broken glass, sharp metal, hot surfaces or even downed, exposed electrical wires.
If your home is under immediate threat, and you must evacuate but cannot find your pet, leave an escape route through an open window or door so your pet won’t be trapped. When there is a fire or flood, pets have a higher chance of survival if they have a way out of an enclosed space.
If you need to find shelter during a disaster, call your local emergency information number (211 or 511) to identify the closest pet-friendly disaster shelter or emergency pet shelter where you can take your pet for temporary care until you can recover from the disaster. Organizations such as the Red Cross or local animal welfare groups will often provide support to residents displaced during a disaster, and local groups may also be able to offer temporary foster homes for displaced pets.
It's best to have a plan for your pet after five days because most shelters are set up for temporary support. A neighbor, friend or family member are possibilities for additional temporary placement. You should also contact local rescue groups, who may be able to offer assistance. To learn more about preparing a plan, click here.
Finding out what emergency support is available for pets in your area will help you to ensure that, if a disaster occurs, your pet is safe until you can get back on your feet and the two of you can be reunited.
Click here for a printable checklist of emergency supplies for pets.
Click here for a printable checklist of what to include in a pet first-aid kit.