Animals & Disaster


Animals & Disaster

Emergencies come in many forms and vary in size and scope. A small gas leak in your community may require that you shelter in place for a short period of time. Severe storms and hurricanes may force some residents to evacuate their homes.

Everyone should have two plans: an evacuation plan and a plan for sheltering in place. Pet owners have a special responsibility to prepare pets before a disaster and to include pets in both of their plans. If you leave, take your pets with you.

Disaster Planning for Pets

  1. Identify your pet (tags, collar, microchip, and current photo of you with your pet)
  2. Assemble a supply kit of pet emergency supplies (download checklist here)
  3. Download and complete the Pet Owner & Emergency Contact form
  4. If you plan to...
    • Shelter in place with your pets:
      • Bring all dogs, cats and other small animals indoors.
      • Put each pet inside their own pet carrier. It's important to keep each animal separated because stress could cause animals to fight.
      • All pets should be wearing identification. Put owner contact information on each pet carrier.
    • Evacuate with your pets:
      • Pre-arrange an animal-friendly evacuation site keeping in mind the number and type of animals you have.
      • Make sure all your pet carriers and pet emergency supplies fit in your car.
      • Begin training your pets now to make them more comfortable with pet carriers and riding in the car.
  1. Follow instructions given by the media and stay informed for new alerts for you area.
  2. Stress may cause your animal to act differently.  Do not let them outside unsupervised and keep comfort items like their favorite toy or something with your scent near them. 
  3. Pets may not want to eat or drink as much as usual.  Feed them moist food to keep them hydrated.

When sheltering in place with your pets:

  • Double check collars and make sure they have not come loose.  You should be able to only slip two fingers under a collar.
  • Keep all pets indoors inside of separate pet carriers.
  • To reduce stress on pets you should also try to stay as calm as possible.

When evacuating with your pets:

  • Call your pre-arranged animal-friendly evacuation site and confirm availability of space.
  • If you evacuate, leave as early as possible.  Take all your pets and try to leave in the cooler hours of the day. 
  • First, load the larger pet carriers in your car and make sure there is enough air ventilation around the walls of the pet carrier.
  1. Examine your pets closely, and contact your veterinarian if you observe injuries or signs of illness.
  2. Feed pets in small servings, slowly working up to full portions if your animals have been without water and food for a prolonged period of time. 
  3. Familiar scents and landmarks may have changed and this can confuse your animals causing them more stress.  They are more prone to run away. 

After sheltering in place with your pets:

  • Survey the area around your home.   Look for hazards that may harm your pet like sharp objects, fallen trees, fences that have fallen, downed power lines, contaminated water, and dangerous wildlife.
  • Only release your small pets indoors in an enclosed room.   Walk your dog on a leash when taking them outside to prevent them from being injured by hazards.  
  • Allow uninterrupted rest/sleep for all animals to recover from trauma and stress.  Animals are creatures of habit and may not fully recover until normal daily routines do.
  • Use safety precautions when working to clear debris like fallen tree limbs.  Keep all animals away from chainsaws and power equipment.  Open or broken windows might injure or allow pets to escape.  Fire ants and snakes are also hazards after a storm.
  • Wildlife will also be affected by the disaster.  Do not touch or allow your animals to have contact with bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes or coyotes because they are high risk rabies carriers. 

After evacuating with your pets:

  • Follow instructions given by the media and stay informed for alerts as to when you can safely return home.
  • Use your larger pet carriers as secure temporary housing for your animals at your evacuation site.
  • Be patient with your pets and try to mimic their home routines while also giving them plenty of time to rest/sleep.

If you have been impacted by the recent heavy rains and flooding, and you have pets, here are some tips for after the storm.

  • Check your home and fences for damage. Loose fences may not properly confine a frightened, disoriented pet. Damaged windows could injure or allow a pet to escape your home.
  • Check your yard and pastures for debris that could injure your pet or livestock.
  • After flood waters recede, check yards for uninvited guests including snakes, fire ants, and displaced wildlife. Check your yard thoroughly before allowing pets outside.
  • Keep your pets out of flood water or rapidly moving water.
  • If you have lost a pet, don’t wait! Contact your local animal control agency immediately. Animal Control Officers will be out in neighborhoods rescuing lost or loose pets. You can also call your local animal control agency to report loose or aggressive animals in your neighborhood.
  • If your pet is lost, someone may have taken it to a local animal welfare shelter. Be sure to call those animal shelters as well.
  • If your pets are lost, you must go and visit local animal control and animal shelters daily.
  • Post waterproof lost pet signs.  Notify local agencies such as animal control, law enforcement and veterinarians, as well as neighbors.
  • Include an out of town contact on lost pet signs in case local networks are busy.
  • Have out of town friends or family use on-line resources to post and view pictures of lost pets to help you narrow down your search.

Refer to our Find a Lost Pet page