Keeping Your Pets Safe During A Disaster


doggyHurricane season began June 1

The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets. Being prepared can save their lives.

Different disasters require different responses. But whether the disaster is a hurricane or a hazardous spill, you may have to evacuate your home.

In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost or worse. So prepare now for the day when you and your pets may have to leave your home.

Have a Safe Place To Take Your Pets

Nassau County has implemented a co-sheltering program, which allows residents and their pets to be housed in the same facility with the County Animal Response Team (CART). Under the co-sheltering program, owners will be housed in a separate portion of the building at Nassau Community College but provided easy and controlled access to their pets. Owners will be issued identification bracelets linking them to their pets. Volunteers will operate the shelter, but less oversight will be necessary since owners are allowed to feed, exercise and interact with pets. Most other disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of state health and safety regulations and other considerations. Service Animals who assist people with disabilities are generally the only animals allowed in those disaster shelters.

Town animal shelters and other animal shelters will generally have limited to no available room for owned animals during an emergency and should not be counted on to take your animal. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead.

Do your research before a disaster strikes:

Shelters Should Be Your Last Resort

  • Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if “no pet” policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have advance notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
  • Ask friends, relatives, or others outside your immediate area whether they could shelter your animals in an emergency. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
  • Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians outside the affected area who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.

Assemble A Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit

Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you’ll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be easily carried (e.g. duffel bags, covered trash containers, etc.).


Keep a collar and I.D. tag on your pets at all times (this includes cats that never go outdoors). During a disaster, a pet can escape. A collar and tag can increase your chance of getting the animal back. On the tag, include your phone number and address. Remember the phones may not be working, so in order to reunite you with your pet, an address is necessary.

Microchipping is provided at most veterinary clinics and animal shelters. It is very important to register the microchip with your current address and keep this information up to date with the microchip company.

cat-1192026_640Food, Water Bowls, Cat Litter/Pan And Can Opener

Have at least a week’s supply of pet food and water on hand at all times for your pets. Store the dry food in airtight waterproof containers. If you use canned food, buy the flip top cans or have a can opener in your airtight disaster supply container. Keep some of your pet’s favorite treats on hand. Pets become stressed during a disaster too, and a treat provides them some comfort. Also keep a supply of cat litter for the cats in your household and keep a clean litter scoop in your disaster kit.


It is important to prepare to confine your animal during a disaster, even if your animal normally stays close to you, he/she may try to run away during times of intense stress. Have a chain leash or crate for each animal in your household. The crate should be large enough for your animal to stand up and turn around in. A cat carrier needs to be large enough to hold a shoebox size litter box, a water/food dish, and room for the cat to comfortably lie down. Make sure the carrier is not left in the sun, and if it is warm, that the cat gets good ventilation.

If you choose to use a leash for confinement, make sure it is made out of chain so your dog cannot chew through it and it is attached to a well-fitted collar or harness. Be sure the chain is long enough for the dog to move around without getting tangled. If your dog rides in your vehicle, be sure to keep an extra chain leash there too. A disaster may occur while you are away from home, and if you should have to abandon your car, you will need to keep your dog safely controlled.

Medications And Medical Records Stored In A Waterproof Container

A vet may not be open for some time following a disaster. Ask your regular vet if she has a disaster plan. Your pet may need medical attention after a disaster and you need to know where to take your animal. Knowing this in advance may save your animal’s life if it is in critical condition. Keep a first aid kit in your disaster kit for your pet. Assembled kits can be purchased at pet stores or ask your vet what to include in one. If your pet is on a long-term medication, always keep a backup supply on hand and make sure to rotate this supply before it expires. If the medication needs to be refrigerated, keep an ice chest on hand to store it in. Ice will need to be obtained from a store, and if they are not open, check with the Red Cross.

Documentation For Your Pets In Case They Get Lost

Take several pictures of you together with all the animals in your household and keep these pictures with your important insurance papers and copies of your pet’s registration info, adoption papers, and vaccination information. Be sure to include in the pictures any distinguishing marks, as these pictures can help reunite you with a lost pet. Store the pictures in a re-sealable plastic bag in case you have to post them during the months that rain. You may also want to consider keeping current color photos of you and your pets on a flash drive or other electronic media.

Other Pet Owners Or Pet Friendly Neighbors

Start a buddy system with someone in your neighborhood so that they will check on your animals during a disaster in case you aren’t home. Agree to do the same thing for them. Exchange information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board the pets. Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable, can also be exchanged. Have a permission slip put in your file at the vet’s authorizing your buddy to act on your behalf for your pet.

Be Sure To Comfort Your Pet During A Disaster

They are frightened too, and having you near to give them a hug will help. If your pet is not ready to be comforted though, do not force it. Let them come to you when they are ready.

Know What To Do As a Disaster Approaches

  • Sometimes warnings are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet.
  • Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
  • Check that your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment’s notice.
  • Bring all pets into the house so that you won’t have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry. Close as many doors as possible to limit search areas.
  • Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars, securely fastened with up-to-date identification. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet’s ID tag, to add your temporary contact information if you evacuate.
  • You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supply kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats, rabbits in carriers, birds and other small animals in cages.

Don’t leave animals unattended anywhere as they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite and scratch. And when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

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