Don’t wait for a disaster to make a plan

Pets aren’t like family. They are family. And because disasters can happen any time and with little warning, the best thing you can do—for you and your pets—is to be prepared. Do you have a plan for your pet in case of an emergency? If not, learn what to do before, during and after a disaster strikes. And, if you do have a plan, it’s always a good idea to do a sanity check every now and again.

Before a disaster hits

Disasters can happen without notice, so be prepared in case you need to evacuate. Things don’t always go as planned, so get ready for the unexpected now.

  • Make sure your pet wears a collar with current tags. It’s also a good tip to put your cell phone number on the identification tag instead of a landline number. Along that line, be sure your pet has a registered microchip with up-to-date information.
  • Buy a pet carrier (one for each animal) and put your name and contact information on it. Also, it’s a good idea to get your pet used to the carrier and practice catching and wrangling him into it—you know, in case he doesn’t go willingly at first.
  • Get a pet alert sticker and post it where it’s visible to rescue workers. This sticker lets people know there are pets inside your home and how many. If you do evacuate and have time, it’s a good idea to write “evacuated” on the sticker.
  • Make a pet disaster kit, and make sure everyone knows where it’s kept. (See the sidebar for suggestions on what to include.)
  • Determine who will care for your pet in the event an emergency shelter does not allow animals (and be sure to speak with them ahead of time or make arrangements with a kennel). Or, if you plan on staying at a hotel, identify which ones are pet-friendly.

During an evacuation

New surroundings can be unnerving for pets. During an evacuation, the following tips may help your pet be more comfortable:

  • Remember your pet disaster kit—especially the familiar items.
  • Try to keep your routines, including walks and feeding schedules.
  • Be generous with love and pets—even more so than usual.
  • Be patient.
  • Check local shelter websites if you become separated from your pet. Also, let your neighborhood (wherever you are staying) know via word of mouth, social media and posters describing your lost pet.

After a crisis

Your excitement about being allowed home will probably rival your pet’s enthusiasm to return to his haven. When you can go home, be sure to:

  • Stay informed of any lingering after-effects.
  • Look for damage before you let your pet explore—and they will want to explore.
  • Be safe.
  • Recognize it may take your pet a little time to get back to his pre-evacuation self, and that’s OK. Be patient, and just like when you were away, remember to be liberal with love and attention.

Leaving pets out of your evacuation plan can put them, you and first responders in unnecessary danger. Remember, if a situation isn’t safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets. Don’t wait until it’s too late to make a plan.

The making of a pet disaster kit

Think about your pet’s basic needs and safety when creating a disaster kit and include things like:

  • Leash and a harness
  • Familiar items like bedding and toys
  • Food for two weeks per pet in airtight, waterproof containers
  • Food and water bowls and any necessary openers
  • Pet first aid kit (and a reference book couldn’t hurt)
  • Poop bags for dogs and a litter box and litter for cats
  • Paper towels and disinfectant
  • Medications, notes about conditions and medical records
  • Recent photo (in case you get separated)
  • Contact info for a friend or a family member

Be sure to review the kit every so often to replace expired food and medication and update your contact information if necessary.

Visit ddfl.org/resource/disaster-preparedness to review the League’s Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners—FAQs, Supply Checklist and Important Information form.