In the event of a natural disaster, your primary goal is to keep everyone safe—including your pets.
“If the conditions are not safe for you, they are not safe for your pets,” says Russell Hartstein, CEO of Fun Paw Care, in Los Angeles. “Never leave an animal behind.”
That’s why you need to include your pets in your disaster safety and evacuation plans. Here are some tips to help with this process.
Know where your pet hides
When thunder strikes or fireworks explode in the night sky, where does your beloved pet take refuge?
Deborah C. Mandell, veterinarian and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital, points out that this is an important detail to know because your furry friend will likely run there during a natural disaster.
“You need to know where they usually sleep and where they hide, so you can get them quickly if needed,” she says.
Decide in advance where to take your pet
You may have only a split second to get out of your home in the case of flood or fire, so you need to decide well in advance where you and your pet will ride out the disaster.
Not every hotel or public shelter has to accept pets during an evacuation.
“Find out if family, friends, pet-friendly hotels, boarding facilities, and/or veterinarians could take your pet, if needed,” Mandell says.
Your advanced planning should also extend beyond your immediate area. You might have to evacuate to another county or state, or research some veterinarians and kennels in neighboring areas as well. If so, scope out locations and also determine what kind of supplies or food you need to bring with you.
Prepare a disaster kit for your pet
When assembling your family’s disaster kit, consider the needs of your pets, too.
“You need enough supplies for your pet to last as long as you will be displaced, typically a week,” Mandell says.
Hartstein recommends printing out a copy of the disaster-preparedness list in case your power goes out during the disaster. Keep as many items as possible in waterproof bags and containers (including dry food).
Make sure your disaster-preparedness kit has the following items:
- Copies of your pet’s medical records and veterinary information
- Food and water
- Collapsible food and water bowls
- Water-purifying tablets and filters
- Manual can opener
- Cloth towels and paper towels
- Pet first-aid supplies
- Bug spray (pet-friendly)
- Sunscreen (pet-friendly)
- Life jacket/vest (if you live in a flood-prone area)
- Dog crate
- Dog bed
- Special toys or comfort items
- Leash, collar, harness
- For dogs, poop bags
- For cats, litter box and kitty litter for at least one week
Make your pet easy to identify
If you need to leave your pet in a shelter or you’re inadvertently separated, try to make identifying and tending to the pet as easy as possible. That means making sure your pets are microchipped and have an ID tag on their collar.
The collar might come off in an emergency, and the microchip may be the only form of identification. But other forms of identification can also be helpful.
“Keep photos and a description of your dog in your disaster kit, as well as in the cloud,” says Hartstein. “Include detailed markings of your pets, which can help you locate them if they become lost or you’re separated.”