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Disaster Preparedness for Pets

Why You Need to Be Prepared

Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, hazardous material spills -- disasters can strike anytime, anywhere. If you think you will never have to evacuate unless you live in a floodplain, near an earthquake fault line, or in a coastal area, you may be tragically mistaken. It is imperative that you make preparations to evacuate your family and your pets in any situation. In the event of a disaster, proper preparation will pay off with the safety of your family and pets.

There are steps that you can take to be better prepared to care for your pets in a disaster. Here are some emergency tips and planning information from The Humane Society of the United States.


The single most important thing you can do to protect your pets if you evacuate is to take them with you. If itís not safe for you to stay in the disaster area, itís not safe for your pets. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Animals left inside your home can escape through storm-damaged areas, such as broken windows. Animals turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents. Leaving dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster is a death sentence.

* If you leave, even if you think you may be gone only for a few hours, take your animals. Once you leave your home, you have no way of knowing how long youíll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets

* Leave earlyódonít wait for a mandatory evacuation order. An unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you may be told to leave your pets behind.

Every member of your family should know what he or she needs to take when you evacuate. You also need to prepare supplies for your pet. Stock up on nonperishables well ahead of time, add perishable items at the last minute, and have everything ready to go at a momentís notice. Keep everything accessible, stored in sturdy containers (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.) that can be carried easily.

In your disaster kit, you should include:

* Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first aid kit. A pet first aid book also is good to include.

* Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets canít escape. Carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time while you have taken shelter away from home.  Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it to accommodate smaller pets. These may require blankets or towels for bedding and warmth, and other special items.

* Current photos and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated and to prove that they are yours.

* Food and water for at least three days for each pet, bowls, cat litter and litter box, and a manual can opener.

* Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.

* Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.

* Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and household bleach.


Your pets should be wearing up-to-date identification at all times. Itís a good idea to include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate areaóif your pet is lost, you want to provide a number on the tag that will be answered even if youíre out of your home.

For more information about disaster preparedness, write to Disaster Services, The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20037; call 202-452-1100; or visit



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