Pets are important members of many households, and like people, are affected by disasters. Pet owners should include their animals in their emergency planning before a disaster threatens. Preparedness steps for animals include: assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system. These basic principles of preparedness will be useful for many types of emergencies.

Every disaster is different. Depending on the situation, you may be advised to “shelter-in- place” or you may be asked to evacuate your home. In either case, you will need to make plans in advance for both your family and your pets. If you evacuate your home, take your pets with you! Pets may not be able to survive a disaster on their own and during an evacuation you cannot know how long you may be away from your home.

If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that pets may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.  Consider staying with loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.

Prepare Your Pets for an Emergency

  • While service animals are allowed inside human public shelters, many shelters do not accept pets. Because pets may not be allowed at many human public shelters, it is critical that as part of your emergency plan, you plan in advance for what you will do with your pet if you need to leave your home:
    • Make plans ahead of time to take your pet to stay at relatives, friends or a kennel outside the affected area.
    • Know the locations of pet-friendly hotels, motels, and campgrounds both inside and outside your local area. Ask if "no pet" policies can be waived in an emergency.
    • Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency.   Be sure to include 24-hour phone numbers.
    • Consult with your local animal control officer and emergency management director about possible temporary shelter facilities in your community.
    • Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have, as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
  • Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can't care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so.
  • As part of your Emergency Kit , prepare an emergency kit for your pets. Include:
    • Collars, leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport and house your pets.
    • Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container).
    • Food, drinkable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and manual can opener.
    • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
    • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you are separated.
    • Pet bed or toys if easily transportable.
  • Make sure your pets wear collars with current license and rabies tags, and if possible, attach the address and/or telephone number of your evacuation site. If your pet has a microchip, be sure that the information is updated to reflect your current information.

During and After an Emergency or Disaster

  • Know where your pets are and determine the safest location for your family and pets. Have newspapers on hand for sanitary purposes.
  • The behavior of your pets may change after an emergency. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely.
  • If you have time before you evacuate, call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
  • If you have to evacuate, use a pet carrier for each of your pets to make transportation easier.
  • Leash your pets when they go outside and maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost.
  • Wildlife, snakes and other dangerous animals may be displaced from their natural surroundings and inhabit the area due to the disaster situation. Downed power lines and spilled chemicals also present hazards to pets.

Livestock and Exotic Animals

  • If you have large animals, such as horses, cattle, sheep, goat or pigs, consider and plan in advance what you would do during an emergency. If you plan on evacuating, make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also make available experienced handlers and drivers. If not evacuating, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to sheltered area or turn them outside.
  • Exotic or dangerous pets require extra planning to ensure that they are handled, transported and cared for by trained personnel at appropriate facilities. To insure for the safety of their animals, owners of these types of pets should have advanced planning preparations ready for their pet’s special needs.

Remember: “When you go, they go!”

For winter pet preparedness information, visit our Winter Pet Safety Tips webpage

For more information, see FEMA’s Pet Owners Brochure or the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Saving the Whole Family Brochure.