Natural Disaster Pet Safety and Preparedness

Originally published October 2018 on the Core Paws blog

In light of recent natural disasters such as Hurricanes Florence and Michael, our hearts at Core Paws go out to the communities and people affected. While heartbreaking and unfortunate, these devastating events also call to attention a serious matter that is very relevant to our many partners, supporters and pet parents: preparing for our animals’ safety during these natural disasters.

Three Major Types of Disasters: Immediate, Short Warning, and Seasonal

If there’s ever an emergency event occurring where you live, pet owners should consider the following for three major types of disasters and how you’ll need to be prepared.

  • Immediate (such as a gas leak, water main break, or house fire) requiring rapid evacuation
  • Short warning (such as a toxic spill or neighborhood fire) where you have a short period of time to evacuate
  • Seasonal disasters (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or forest fires) where you will need to plan for evacuation

For each of the above, there are ways you and your animal can prepare for the best possible outcome.

  • Evacuate as soon as an order is given, whether it is mandatory or voluntary. It is better to be safe than sorry, especially because your animals are depending on your decision-making.
  • Microchip your pets. Be sure to keep your contact information current with the most up-to-date telephone numbers and addresses on file with your microchipping company.
  • Keep an animal preparedness kit ready in your car or by your door. See the section below for a checklist of basic supplies.
  • Make a plan. By considering your options and planning ahead, you will be able to think more quickly on your feet when an emergency occurs.

Pet Preparedness Kits: Basic Supplies

It is wise to have a preparedness kit ready at any time with at least these basic supplies for your dog or cat.

  • Two- to four-week supply of pet food (there are various options, such as freeze-dried or vacuum-sealed individual packages) — be sure to check the expiration dates and replenish as needed.
  • Water pouches (or consider alternatives such as water purification tablets)
  • Water and food bowls
  • Kennel, crate or carrier
  • Records (such as medical history, vaccinations, microchip information)
  • One-month supply of any medications — be sure to check the expiration dates and rotate as needed.
  • Collar and leash — bright and reflective, with identification tags
  • First-aid kit
  • Pet waste supplies (such as litter pans, training pads, and waste bags)
  • Comfort items (blanket, toys, treats)

Keep a current photo of your pet in case they become lost. Many of these pre-packed emergency pet kits can also be purchased online.

Evacuation Advice: Shelters and Accommodations

In October 2006, the U.S. Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (the PETS Act) as part of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The PETS Act ensures that local emergency preparedness plans also consider the needs of companion and service animals. This act authorizes Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide rescue, care and shelter for animals.

It’s important to note that regulations do not permit Red Cross shelters to allow pets, unless they are service animals. Not all communities offer pet-friendly emergency or evacuation shelters. Contact your local emergency management office or animal shelter to locate a safe place for you and your pets following a disaster or emergency. If you do not have access to a shelter, alternative options include hotels (confirm that they are pet-friendly) or friends and relatives (confirm ahead of time they are able to accommodate your animals).

In the event of seasonal disasters where you have time to plan your evacuation, bring any outdoor pets inside. Block off rooms to keep your dog or cat in one area, so if you need to evacuate, you can quickly gather them into their carriers.

Animal Shelters During Emergencies and Disasters: How You Can Help

Animal shelters and rescue organizations often assume responsibility for the strays and displaced or surrendered pets following a disaster. Many of these groups (including Core Paws’ partner Best Friends Animal Society) step up from hundreds of miles away, accepting and transporting animals from the affected areas.

In the event of disasters where there is time to plan for emergencies, local shelters often hope to empty their facilities by waiving or reducing adoption fees. This helps them make room for the animals that will be in most need.

You can help these noble shelters and rescues in many ways:

  • Make a monetary donation to help them with supplies
  • Volunteer to transport animals
  • Consider adopting or short-term fostering so they can make space in their kennels or catteries

Visit Core Paws to view some of these adoptable animals.

Resources such as Doobert also help shelters and rescues share their needs or offers for assistance.