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Do you have a plan of action developed to deal with a disaster? This is an issue that is often ignored until a disaster occurs. Then it may be too late. Emergency preparation encompasses planning for the needs of all the members of your family, including pets, and can mean the difference between life and death for all.



  • The survival of you and your pet(s) during an emergency, such as a fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or terrorist attack, depends largely on planning done in advance. That planning must include the welfare of pets, which will require some additional considerations, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system.

  • The single most important thing you can do to keep your pet safe is to take them with you if you have to evacuate during a disaster. Some people believe their pets will be more comfortable or somehow safer if left at home. This is not the case. Too many times people who thought they were going to be away from home for only a few hours, learned later they would not be allowed to go back to their homes for days or sometimes even weeks. Pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return. The important thing to remember here is, if you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND!

  • When evacuating with your pet, provide a pen or carrier that allows ample room for your pet to stand up and turn around inside. Place familiar items, such as the pet's normal bedding and favorite toys, inside. It is helpful to train your pet to become comfortable with the carrier beforehand by using it as its routine resting place. This will dramatically relieve some of the stress of being in a new environment during the evacuation. If you have a bird, make sure the bird is caged and you have a thin cloth or sheet to cover the cage. A covered cage may help reduce the anxiety experienced during a disaster and the stress associated with transportation and placement in unfamiliar surroundings.

  • Keep a list of hotels that will accept pets and be sure to ask if there are any size restrictions. If you plan to seek refuge at a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance to identify shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. Also, consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency. It is advisable to evacuate early with your pet. Do not wait until it is too late to evacuate on our own, necessitating evacuation by emergency personnel. They may not allow you to bring your animal with you.

  • Make a back-up emergency plan in case you cannot 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. If you must leave a pet in your home to shelter in place, a “PET INSIDE” sticker on the door is an effective tool for alerting first responders that a pet is inside your home.

  • When assembling emergency supplies for the household, don't forget the animal emergency supply kit. It should include items such as extra food, kitty litter, bowls, and extra medication. Pets' vaccinations should be current and records kept in a plastic, sealable bag. Always include enough food and water to sustain your pets for at least three days. Be sure to check your kit regularly and replace items as needed to insure they remain fresh.

  • If your pet gets separated from you, proper identification may be his/her only way home. Therefore, make sure he/she has a properly fitted collar or harness that includes current license, identification, and Rabies tags. A microchip (a small device that can be implanted painlessly under your pet's skin) is another good way for your pet to be identified, since it cannot be altered or lost. Most shelters and clinics now have access to a microchip scanner.

  • If you are unable to evacuate and cannot remain in your own home, check with your local animal shelter or emergency management office to determine if a pet friendly emergency shelter will be set up near your location. Many emergency shelters only allow service animals, so advanced planning is crucial. It is also helpful to keep a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in disaster emergencies.



  • If your family and pets have to wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together and place your emergency supplies in that room ahead of time – including your pet's crate and supplies. During a disaster, bring your pets inside immediately. Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and may isolate themselves or try to escape, especially if they are afraid. You may need to separate dogs and cats, because even if your pets normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act unreasonably. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.

  • If you are forced to ride out the emergency in a local shelter with your pet, be sure to take your animal emergency supply kit with you. The shelter may not be equipped to adequately house, water and feed your pet and you will most likely be responsible for the care of your pet while in the shelter.



  • Do not assume that all is well just because a disaster has passed. Do not let your pets loose in the house or yard until you have had the chance to examine everything very carefully. It is possible that there may be damage to your home which could harm you or your pet. Carefully walk the yard to verify the fence is intact and there is nothing new and dangerous in the yard, particularly snakes or other dangerous animals which may have come into your yard during flooding. Downed power lines may pose electrical hazards.

  • In the first few days after the disaster, leash your pets when they go outside. Always maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost. Do not be surprised if your pet is more anxious or fearful after a disaster. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become defensive and aggressive. It's very important to observe your pets closely after a disaster, and give them extra attention, if necessary. They won't understand everything that just happened, and will look to you to provide some stability and comfort.

  • If your pet was placed in an animal shelter or boarding facility, contact them as soon as possible to verify your pet's status and let them know when you will be able to come get him/her. If your pet is lost during a disaster, check with your area shelters every day since strays might only be held for 3 days before being considered unclaimed and put to sleep.

  • Remember, planning is the key. Do not wait until it is too late. Start now to establish your plan of action and to build your emergency supply kit and be sure your pet is included in that preparation.


**This is an article from Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services**

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