Emergency Preparedness for Your Pet
Are you ready?
The key to survival during any crisis, emergency or disaster is to be as prepared as possible before the storm hits. Once you are in a serious situation, time is of the essence and the last thing that you want to do is scramble to protect the welfare of your pet. Take the time to make a plan and assemble an emergency kit for you and your pet in advance. By taking these steps now, you will greatly increase your pet’s chances of survival.
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Click here to download a tip sheet to help you prepare your pets for an emergency!
These are examples of what could happen to you at any time, anywhere in the country. Prepare yourself for these events, and if a large disaster should ever hit, you will be ready and know what to do:
- The roads are icy, traffic is a mess and you decide to stay with a friend instead of risking the drive home from school or work. Who will check on your pets and feed them?
- While you were out running errands, a propane truck overturned on the street near your neighborhood and you are not allowed to go home. A police officer tells you the electricity to your neighborhood was shut off. How can you make sure your pets stay warm?
- Your mother-in-law has had a heart attack and you need to go to the hospital. It may be a long night. Who will give your pet their medicine?
The Edmonton Humane Society recommends the following actions to make sure your pets are taken care of when everyday events like these prevent you from taking care of your pets:
- Develop a buddy system. Find a trusted neighbor and give them a key to your house. Make sure this person is comfortable and familiar with your pets.
- Make sure the neighbor knows your pets' whereabouts and habits, so they will not have to waste precious time trying to find or catch them.
- Create a pet grab and go kit and place it in a prominent place where your neighbor can find it.
- If the emergency involves evacuation, make sure the neighbor would be willing to take your pets and has access to the appropriate carriers and leashes. Plan to meet at a prearranged location.
- If you use a pet sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
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 non-perishables well ahead of time, and have everything ready to go at a moment's notice. Keep everything accessible, stored in sturdy containers (duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.) that can be carried easily.
In your pet disaster kit, you should include:
- Food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food.
- Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first aid kit. A pet first aid book is also good to include.
- Cat litter box, litter, garbage bags to collect all pets' waste, and litter scoop.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets can't 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 are 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.
- Proof of ownership, 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.
- Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.
- Information about your pets' 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.
Other useful items include newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items and household bleach.
Because evacuation shelters generally don't accept pets (except for service animals), you must plan ahead to make certain your family and pets will have a safe place to stay. Don't wait until disaster strikes to do your research.
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size and species. Inquire if the "no pet" policies would be waived in an emergency. Make a list of animal-friendly places and keep it handy. Call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.
- Check with friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area. Ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals or just your animals, if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them at separate locations.
- Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in emergencies; include 24-hour telephone numbers. Ask your local animal shelter if it provides foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency. This should be your last resort, as shelters have limited resources and are likely to be stretched to their limits during an emergency.
- Put your pet in a safe, secure room without windows but with adequate ventilation (bathroom).
- Leave enough food to last for seven days.
- Fill up the sink, bathtub and containers that won’t tip over easily with water. Your pet will be under stress and may drink more water than usual. One to two gallons of water per day per pet can be used as a guideline.
- Leave familiar bedding and safe toys that the pet is used to.
- Don’t confine dogs and cats in the same space. Cage small animals and birds.
- Ensure that your pet is wearing identification tags.
- Place a notice on your front door that there are pets in the house and where they are located.
- Provide a telephone number where you can be reached or the number of your veterinarian.
- If you expect flooding provide access to elevated spaces or counters.
- Never leave your pet tied outside especially when expecting a flood.
- When you evacuate your pet, put your pet in a portable kennel and remember they will also be distressed over the situation and may bolt from your vehicle
The single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you when you evacuate. 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 only be gone for a few hours, take your animals. When you leave, you have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets.
Leave early—don't 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.
If you must evacuate along with your pet, have a Pet Grab & Go Kit prepared in advance with the items:
- portable pet carrier (store the following items in the carrier or in a large plastic bin)
- put a sheet of paper on the top of the carrier with a checklist for you of missing items to add at the last minute (fresh food and any pets’ medications)
- vaccination record, required ID or license/vaccination tags
- proof of ownership
- list of emergency contacts
- collar, leash and muzzle
- pet food for a minimum of three days
- water-a minimum of one gallon per day per animal for a minimum of three days
- kitty litter/containers
- food/water dishes
- newspaper, plastic bags, cleanser and disinfectants (free of ammonia)
- current photo
- blanket, towels or pet bed
- familiar toys
In addition to the items listed above, include any items recommended by your veterinarian specifically for your pet. Check the supplies in your pet first aid kit occasionally. Replace any items that have expired. For your family’s safety, keep all medical supplies and medications out of the reach of children and pets. Everyone who shares a home with a pet should always have a basic pet first aid kit on hand. Keep a kit in your home and in your car if you travel with your pet.
Planning and preparation will help you survive the disaster, but your home may be a very different place afterward
- Don't allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
- While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and keep cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, they could escape and become lost.
- Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be ready for behavioral problems that may result from the stress of the situation. If behavioral problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian