Hello and welcome! I bet you’re here because you want to know what to do with your pets in the case of an emergency. Disaster planning for pets is often hard to find, but many cats and dogs are just as important in the family as the two-legged members, especially service animals.
It is with pleasure that I share this incredibly comprehensive Pet Disaster Plan with you. This guest post was written by a former dog trainer who wants to make sure that all of my readers keep their precious animals safe no matter what happens.
Pets are such a very important part of our lives for so many people. Just like preparing to keep the people safe during a disaster, we need to assemble supplies, gather information ahead of time and know what to expect.
Table of Contents
- GATHERING SUPPLIES
- Travel Preparation
Before an emergency occurs, contact your county’s Emergency Management office to find out all of the emergency pet-friendly shelters in your area and what requirements there are for bringing your pets. Ask what kinds of animals are allowed as many shelters do not allow reptiles, insects and exotic pets.
Also call local shelters and ask if they provide emergency or foster care during a disaster.
You want to have as many different places as you can because if an emergency occurs in the area you have decided you would go to…well, you just can’t go there! If you already have other places it is much easier than trying to find another place during a disaster.
Keep the list and a pre-marked map in the go kit. By pre-marked I mean that you should locate each address on the map, use a different color pen or marker for each address and circle the address in that color. On the list of addresses, make a mark with that color or write the phone number in that color of ink. You will be ready to head in a different direction and not be too flustered.
Many shelters for pets require that you pre-register before a disaster. You must check with your local shelter. Registration is important because it lets the county how many animals, and what types, will be looking for shelter.
If you have a Service Dog, it will go to any shelter you go to. Any other pets may have to be taken care of by a friend or family member.
Pets in a shelter must be taken care of by someone. Shelter staff are not there to look after, feed, medicate or clean up after your animals. Remember that people and animals are almost always housed separately. You cannot stay with them all the time but you or a family member must check on them often.
People who have special needs must register for a special needs shelter. Only you, a caretaker and, if you have one, your service dog will be allowed in the special needs shelter. All other family and pets will go to another shelter.
But now that you’ve figured out where you could go, how do you ensure you can get your pet safely there – and provide care while you weather the problem? Keep reading to get a detailed list of supplies that you should have on hand.
This is also done in the pre-planning stage. People aren’t the only ones who need Bug Out Bags. Each animals needs one, too.
If you have animals, paperwork must be properly done and updated each year (or whenever relevant). You don’t want to discover that the paperwork is out of date during an emergency.
Current vaccination record
Be sure that this includes a health certificate, if this is necessary in your country. In the US, this is a requirement to take an animal across state lines.
On the vaccination record, write in the rabies tag number and county, if it isn’t there. Also write in the number and type of microchip.
Make two copies of each pet’s paperwork. For each pet, add a copy of a photo of you and your family (or an authorized friend) with that pet. You need two copies of the photo.
Fill out the species card, for each pet. (Fill out your first name and email and then check your Inbox.)
Also, write down medications and what health issues they are for as well as the medication times. This can easily be forgotten under stress.
Write down feeding amounts and times as well.
One copy of each piece of paperwork and photo of your pet will go into a Ziploc bag and be attached to cardboard by tape. Poke a hole through the Ziploc and cardboard, in the corner, and put a zip tie through the hole. This will attach to that pet’s crate.
One copy of each piece of paperwork and photo stapled to it will go in a folder you keep in your go bag.
Do this for each pet. Be sure the photos are clear and can be used for identification of you and your pet. Things happen in disasters and people/pets can be separated, even if in the same shelter! Better safe than, well…you know.
Buy each pet that wears a collar an ID tag with your name, cell phone number, the number of an out of state/province relative or friend and your pet’s microchip # on it.
Make sure it is a friend or relative that would take care of your pets should something happen to you.
Food for one week. If your pet is on specialized food, plan for a minimum of three weeks.
After a disaster it may be difficult to get specialized food.
If you can, put the meals into ziplock bags. Give just a bit less per meal as bathroom times can be limited. If you feed canned food, be sure to include a manual can opener (one for each pet that requires canned food). Even cans with pop up tabs may need a can opener now and then.
Water for one (1) week. Ask your veterinarian how much water each pet needs daily. Since it is easy to fill a water bowl whenever we want most of the time it is hard to judge what amount is right for dog sizes from chihuahua to great danes.
Food and water bowl
Each pet needs its own food and water bowl so you can monitor its eating and drinking. Under stress many animals will stop eating and drinking. The non eating isn’t a problem except for those with health problems normally…but not drinking can cause issues.
Treats can stimulate lost appetites but do not give very many as they can cause tummy aches.
Gas and diarrhea meds
Speaking of tummy aches…in each go kit you should have “gas” pills (such as Phazyme or generic equivalent) and diarrhea pills (such as Imodium or generic equivalent). These are very important and should be considered “must haves”.
Quiet toys (i.e. Kongs with peanut butter or squirt cheese; antlers or bones; hard rubber toys). Do not include anything with squeakers, bells, or other noise makers. If your dog tears up a toy be sure to pick up all of the pieces. There won’t be a way to get them to a veterinarian if they swallow a piece of a toy.
Blankets or bedding. Towels are also great. Something soft that can be changed if needed.
One crate per animal, large enough for them to turn around in, stand up and stretch out to sleep. A cat will need room enough for a litter box…disposals or aluminum turkey roasting pans. Don’t forget the litter and the scooper! (BTW, cat toys should be quiet as well).
IF your animals are used to being crated together, they can be kept in the same crate but be aware there is a possibility tensions that are running high can cause fights. Think of the back seat of a car with kids that normally are fine together…but on a five minute ride in the car want to kill one another.
An extra harness or collar in case something happens…such as a chewing “accident”. Don’t forget to change the id and rabies tags over.
Extra leashes are also a good idea.
Each pet needs a muzzle, fitted for it, just in case. Scared animals will sometimes bite…even the owner.
Medication and Instructions
All medications should be labeled with pet’s name; medication schedule and instructions on when and how to give them should be on the species card. The medication should be kept with the person in charge of the animal. Never leave it unattended.
If you use pill pockets, peanut butter or squirt cheese to give the medication be sure to have enough of these to last two (2) weeks for each pet.
Portable Potty Spots
If you have dogs that dislike wet feet, during flood or hurricane disasters you can get plastic tablecloths at the dollar store. Depending on your dog’s size you can cut these up for “portable potty” spots. You need several such pads. After use, bag them up in plastic bags that can be sealed by tying or other means.
Keep reading for the printable supply list!
Paper towels, wet wipes or Clorox wipes or cleaning solution; Trash bags…garbage as well as potty bags; antiseptic gel for your hands. Disposable diapers, cut up, are wonderful for “wet” stuff. Put the plastic side up, filling side on the wet and step on it.
Be kind to the other people and pets in the shelter. Clean up whenever your pet (s) go to the bathroom! Grocery bags (check there are no holes) can be used to put the mess into…then put inside a larger garbage bag to keep the smells down.
Small Pet Supplies
Small pets (gerbils, guinea pigs, etc.)will need food/water/meds/toys and wood chips or other cage lining.
Birds will need their normal items.
First Aid Book
Have a first aid book for each type of animal you have. First aid supplies will be listed in the books.
Hunger and Thirst
A good rule of thumb…if you are hungry or thirsty, chances are your pet (s) are as well. Unless you are a stress eater…
Keep your animal Bug Out Bags in the same location as the people’s bags. Load your car with kits first, crates second, pets third, humans last.
Unload in the opposite direction – humans, pets, crates, kits.
Don’t overlook these very important aspects of preparation. A supply list will do you no good if you have a terrified animal in full panic mode.
If your pets are not used to crating:
With crate door open, throw in a toy or treat while they watch. Don’t say anything. Let them explore.
Do NOT close the door! After a week or two of doing this a few times a day, add some bedding, leaving the door open. Continue to throw a toy or treat in.
Do not close the door until your animal is totally comfortable. Give them a long lasting toy (treat filled Kong or bone) and close the door.
Open the door when they are finished with the treat. Slowly creep up the time the door is kept closed.
If your pet is not used to traveling anywhere other than the vet’s office, you can get them used to that, too.
Short trips at first. Please contain your animal(s) or put them in animal seat belts for their safety and yours.
If they don’t mind a short ride and do not get car sickness, add a few minutes to the trip each time. Always follow a travel session with a special treat, lots of praise and a happy, happy voice!
And now you’re prepared for a disaster with your pets and service animals.The only thing you’re missing is a Pet First Aid Kit so go get it!