Create A Disaster Plan For Your Pet

Our hearts are with all the families affected by recent and upcoming hurricanes.

We are an animal rescue in Southern California, and as such, our thoughts immediately go to the animals. How are they, are people able to take them to shelters, are the animals getting fresh food, clean water, medications, a dry place to sleep? Being from California and the heart of earthquake territory, we are taught from an early age to "be prepared" in case of a disaster. In many cases, disaster strikes with no warning. Wildfires, earthquakes, flash floods, tornadoes, there are any number of things that can lead to massive power outages, infrastructure loss, homelessness, an inability to contact friends and loved ones, and a need to be self reliant until help arrives.

We learn a lot in school about what it takes to survive a few days without power, gas, and phones in the midst of a disaster. We have earthquake drills and fire drills at school and work, and our employers have disaster preparedness plans and team coordinators. Resources are readily available to prepare for survival. There are ready made disaster preparedness kits that you can buy at your local hardware or big box store, websites that have checklists of items to keep on hand to last several days without help, and TV shows dedicated to surviving on your own. The key is to make sure you have these items on hand before you need them. Water, food, batteries, medications, blankets, etc. This website is a great resource for being prepared, creating kits, making a disaster plan, and even has resources for your pets:

The information in this post will be focused on disaster preparedness for you household pets. I won't spend too much time talking about preparing your home, your human family, or livestock. It is extremely important to do so, and if you haven't already, please do so ASAP. As noted above, there are lots of resources available, and a Google search on disaster preparedness will result in some great information on how to do so. A lot of thought goes into preparing your home for disaster. In some cases, like a tropical storm, there is some warning time, getting your family together and potentially allowing you to get what you need before you head to safer ground. In other cases, like an earthquake, there is no warning, and your family may be spread between home, work and school. You could have a pet at home with no way to get there.

  1.  If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pet. If you need to evacuate, take your pet with you. You have no way of knowing how long you will need to be gone, the extent of damage, and if you will be able or allowed to go back for your pet. If you have pets, evacuate early. If forced to evacuate by emergency personnel, you may not be allowed to bring your pets.
  2. Microchip your pet, and make sure they are wearing a collar with your emergency contact information on it. In a disaster, your pet may get out, or may be trapped at home by itself. Emergency personnel need a way to be able to contact you when they find your pet. Make sure the microchip has YOUR name and up to date contact information.
  3. Pet Inside window stickers. These can be placed on doors and windows of your home to inform emergency personnel that you have animals inside. They are available at many stores and websites, and you can find them at Amazon here: PET INSIDE window stickers
  4. Always bring your pet inside at the first sign of a storm or disaster
  5. Have crates available for all your pets. We have several dogs and a cat in our home. We have individual crates available for all of them. Crates come in handy if there is any destruction to your home or property, can make transportation easier, or can provide a safe, comfortable place for a pet that is under stress. We have foldable wire crates in the house, and travel/foldable crates in our garage next to the cars. The links go to Amazon, or your local pet store or big box store will have them in various sizes. Our dogs are crate trained, they are crated whenever we leave the house
  6. Keep leashes handy. We have leashes by the door, in our garage, and in our cars. For our personal pets we have leashes that have clips on them so they can be attached to a post or wrapped around your waist for handsfree operation. In our cars we have some simple slip leads that we can use if we find a stray with no collar on.
  7. Have up to 7 days of canned or dry food and fresh water available. Keep food dishes and water bowls.
  8. Keep copies of your pets medical records and at least a 2 week supply of medication. Remember that all stored food and medications should be rotated out regularly so they don't go bad or expire. In the case of medication that needs to be refrigerated (like insulin), keep a small ice chest handy with your emergency kit.
  9. Have kitty litter, pee pads, paper towels, and waste bags. Animals that are house trained may struggle if they aren't allowed outside to relieve themselves.
  10. Make or buy a pet first aid kit. You can buy ready made kits, or you can assemble one using this guide from the Humane Society.
  11. Have pictures of your pets available in the event your pet escapes your home that you can show/share with rescuers.
  12. Make arrangements with friends and family outside your immediate area that could temporarily care for your pets if required. In case your home is damaged or destroyed, or water sources have been compromised, or just a few simple repairs need to be made, knowing your pets are safe with someone you know and trust can provide some relief. Your local animal shelter with be stretched thin with space and resources to be able to care for pets that could be housed somewhere else.
  13. Have a list of all local shelters, boarding facilities and veterinary offices readily available in case of emergency.
  14. Check local hotels to determine which ones are pet friendly.
  15. In case you are not home when disaster strikes, arrange with a local friend or neighbor to check on your pets/home.
  16. To keep your pets as safe and healthy as possible, make sure they are up to date on vaccines.

After the emergency is over, whether you stayed in place or evacuated and are returning home, make sure you keep your pets on a leash or in a carrier. Before letting your animals roam the house or yard, do a check to look for things like broken glass, nails, etc.  Make sure no toxic items have spilled on the floor where a pet could lick or eat it. Board up broken windows. Check the yard for any openings in fences or walls. Prior to releasing your pets, you want to make sure they can't escape. It may be necessary to keep pets on leashes for awhile. After a disaster, scent markers and landmarks may have been altered or eliminated, causing a pet to become disoriented or lost. Unusual behavior issues may present themselves as pets are stressed due to the conditions. Patience may be required as things slowly return to normal.

Pets are family too. Please don't leave them behind, they need us to protect them. Their life matters. Thank you from the team at Leave No Paws Behind.