Protecting your pets
Posted May 22, 2007
Updated July 29, 2015
Pets enrich our lives in more ways than we can count. In turn, they depend on us for their safety and well-being. Here's how you can be prepared to protect your pets when disaster strikes.
Be prepared with a disaster plan
Often, warnings are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet.
If your home isn't safe for you during a tropical storm or hurricane, it isn't safe for your pets. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worse.
Not all shelters, however, welcome pets, so it's important to have a plan in place for your furry family members that includes provisions for where they can stay.
- Ask friends or relatives outside your area if they can safely shelter your animal.
- Do Internet searches for hotels that allow pets and know the phone numbers of pet-friendly hotels. Call in advance to make arrangements. Make a list of veterinaries, local animal shelters and boarding facilities that shelter animals in an emergency.
- Make sure your pets have up-to-date ID tags on at all times. Include a cellphone number so if your pet is lost, you can be reached.
You might not be home when an evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home.
If you use a pet-sitting service, it might be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely, but bear in mind that animals react differently under stress.
Create an emergency-supply kit
Just as you do with your family’s emergency supply kit, think first about the basics for survival, particularly food and water.
- Food: Keep at least three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container.
- Water: Store at least three days of water specifically for your pets, in addition to water you need for yourself and your family.
- Medicines and medical records: Keep an extra supply of medicines your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container.
- First-aid kit: Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs. Most kits should include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Include a pet first-aid reference book.
- Collar with ID tag, harness or leash: Your pet should wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification at all times. Include a backup leash, collar and ID tag in your pet’s emergency supply kit.
- Important documents: Place copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container.
- Crate or other pet carrier: If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation, a crate or pet carrier can help protect your pet.
- Sanitation: Include pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet’s sanitation needs. You can use bleach as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach), or in an emergency you can also use it to purify water. Use 8 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water, stir well and let it stand for 30 minutes before use. Do not use scented or color safe bleaches or those with added cleaners.
- A picture of you and your pet together: If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
- Familiar items: Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.
- Consider two kits. In one, put everything your pets will need to stay where you are. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you and your pets have to get away quickly.
About Other Pets
- Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing birds inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds' feathers periodically.
Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content.
Have a photo for identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let birds out of the cage or carrier.
- Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but they must be transferred to more secure housing when they reach the evacuation site. If your snakes require frequent feedings, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad.
When transporting house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.
- Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.
Information provided by the Humane Society of the United States, SPCA of Wake County and the American Red Cross.