Protecting Pets

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, too. 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 by following these 6 steps.
  1. Step 1
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3
  4. Step 4
  5. Step 5
  6. Step 6
Step 1 - Have a Safe Place to Take Your Pets
Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of the health and safety regulations. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross Shelters.

Plan Ahead
It may be impossible to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research:
  • Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on pets.
  • Ask if "no pet" policies can be waived in an emergency.
  • Keep a list of "pet friendly" places in your evacuation kit.
Ask friends or relatives outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. 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 who could shelter animals in an emergency; including 24 hour phone numbers.

Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for animals they already have as well as those displaced by disaster, so this should be the last resort. 
Be Prepared
Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react different under stress.

Outside the Home
Outside your home and in the car:
  • Keep dogs securely leashed.
  • Transport cats in carriers.
  • Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off.
  • The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, or try to escape, bite or scratch.
When you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

If you must evacuate, do not leave your animals behind. Evacuate them to a prearranged safe location if they cannot stay with you during the evacuation period. If there is a possibility that disaster may strike while you are out of the house, there are precautions you can take to increase your pets' chances of survival, but they are not a substitute for evacuation with your pets.

More Information
For more information, contact:
The Humane Society of the United States, Disaster Services
2100 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20037