Pets and Large Animal Care During a Disaster

If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. Unfortunately, animals are also affected by disaster. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what's best for you is typically what's best for your animals.

Identifying shelter. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets well in advance of needing them. There are also a number of guides that list hotels/motels that permit pets and could serve as a starting point. Include your local animal shelter's number in your list of emergency numbers. They might be able to provide information concerning pets during a disaster. Before you find yourself in an emergency situation, consider packing a "pet survival" kit which could be easily deployed if disaster hits.

Get Informed

  • Know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation and when to shelter in place.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to your local emergency station and monitor TV, radio, and follow mobile alert and mobile warnings about severe weather in your area.
  • Download the FEMA app, receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.

Make A Plan

Remember, during a disaster what’s good for you is good for your pet, so get them ready today.

If you leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured – or worse. Never leave a pet chained outdoors. Plan options include:

  • Create a buddy system in case you’re not home. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals.
  • Identify shelters. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets.
    • Find pet friendly hotels along your evacuation route and keep a list in your pet’s emergency kit.
    • Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter.
    • Consider an out-of-town friend or relative
  • Locate a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter, in case your pet needs medical care. Add the contact information to your emergency kit.
  • Have your pet microchipped and make sure that you not only keep your address and phone number up-to-date, but that you also include contact info for an emergency contact outside of your immediate area.
  • Call your local emergency management office, animal shelter or animal control office to get advice and information.
  • If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Find out where pet boarding facilities are located.
  • Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet's medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.
  • If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place your animal in great danger!

Build a Supply Kit

These basic survival items can keep your pet happy and comfortable. Start with this list, or download Preparing Makes Sense for Pet Owners-Emergency Preparedness Pet Kit List (PDF) to find out exactly what items your pet needs to be Ready.

  • Food. A three to seven day supply in an airtight, waterproof container or canned food with a manual can opener.
  • Water. A three to seven day of water specifically for your pets. Collapsible water dish.
  • Medicines and medical records. Veterinary records
  • Important documents. Registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
  • First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.
  • Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash. Include your contact information.
  • Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
  • Sanitation. Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.
  • A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home. 
  • Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.
  • Specific supplies for your pet. Do you have a bird, reptile, small animal or fish? What do they need?

Tips for Large Animals

If you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, be sure to prepare before a disaster.

  • Ensure all animals have some form of identification.
  • Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
  • Make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also make available experienced handlers and drivers.
  • Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care and handling equipment.
  • If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside.

Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated.

Animals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Make sure your livestock has the following to help prevent cold-weather problems:

  • Plenty of dry bedding to insulate vulnerable udders, genitals and legs from the frozen ground and frigid winds
  • Windbreaks to keep animals safe from frigid conditions
  • Plenty of food and water