Disaster Planning to Include Your Dog

Natural disasters create immense stress for pets and pet owners alike.  People can easily get caught up in the chaos of the storm and forget to help their pets. It is important to include your pets in your emergency safety plans. By being prepared, you can help ensure the safety and well-being of your pets should a disaster occur.


These general guidelines can help you prepare for a natural disaster.

Research a safe place to take your pets. Most emergency shelters do not allow pets.

  • Ask friends or relatives if they can shelter you and your pets.
  • Look for pet-friendly facilities and lodging near you. Find listings at sites such as www.petswelcome.com and www.pets-allowed-hotels.com.
  • Call your local pet boarding facilities, humane societies and animal shelters to learn about their restrictions and policies. Keep a list of these facilities in your pet emergency kit.
  • If you evacuate your home, do everything you can to take your pets with you. Animals left behind can be injured, lost or killed.
  • If you must leave pets behind, secure them in a bathroom (with drinking water in the tub), leave out plenty of food, and alert local officials that your pets are in your home.

Assemble an emergency kit for pets
“Whether you stay home or evacuate, keep a pet emergency kit with your family’s emergency kit,” said Edwards. Use plastic zipper bags to protect the items. Items should include:

  • Collar with tags and sturdy leash
  • Two-week supply (or more) of each pet’s medications
  • Two-week supply of pet food and bottled water, and bowls for each
  • Photocopies of health records and a recent photo taken of you with your pets
  • First-aid supplies, including bandages, tape, tweezers and antibacterial ointment (ask your vet for recommendations)
  • Secure, covered carrier/crate (large enough for your pet to completely turn around)
  • Flashlight and radio, with fresh batteries for each
  • Favorite toy or bedding (to help reduce the stress of unfamiliar surroundings)
  • Cleaning supplies and disposable trash bags or newspaper for cleanup

Before the emergency

  • Be sure pets are wearing current identification, and have pets microchipped. This permanent form of ID helps ensure your pets are returned to you if they are lost.
  • Keep pets current on all vaccinations and de-wormer.
  • Have a photograph taken of you with your pets to show proof of ownership should you become separated. Send copies of the photo to family and friends who live out of state for safekeeping.
  • Get a window decal so that rescue workers know there are pets in your home. These can be obtained from the ASPCA or your local fire department.

During the emergency

  • If you stay at home during the emergency, take your pets with you to a safe room such an inside laundry room or bath room (away from outer walls).
  • Put your pet on a leash or in a covered carrier. This ensures you know where he is, provides a naturally safe environment for him, and allows you to move him to safe areas as needed.
  • Always remain calm. “If you act anxious, your pet will sense and feed off your mood,” said Edwards.
  • If your dog shows signs of anxiety, do NOT “comfort” him. This will sound like praise and may increase his nervousness and confusion. Just act as naturally as possible and/or ignore his anxious behavior.

After the emergency has passed

  • If emergency officials advise you to remain in your home, keep your pets in your home, too.
  • Once emergency officials say your environment is safe, walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to the area and your home.
  • If you have lost your pet, contact local animal control officers to find out where lost animals can be recovered. “Bring along that photo of you with your pets to help shelter workers identify your missing pals,” said Edwards.
  • Depending on the extent of the emergency, have your pets checked by your veterinarian to ensure their continued health.