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Pets: Keeping Your Pets Safe When Natural Disasters Happen

By James P. Judge
BluePearl Veterinary Partners

Cat and Dog
Veterinarians and emergency hospitals for pets are encouraging pet parents to include their pets when making family disaster plans. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is sponsoring America’s PrepareAthon on September 30, as part of the federal government’s National Preparedness Month. The event is meant to motivate individuals, organizations, and communities to prepare in advance for natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and winter storms.

“Disasters can happen with little notice and be devastating. But being prepared can save your life or that of your family members — including your pets, ” said Dr. Jennifer Welser, chief medical officer of BluePearl. “That’s why we strongly recommend pets be included in your disaster preparedness plan.”

Here are some recommended tips:

Create An Emergency Kit For Your Pet Before A Disaster

  • Keep current documentation of your pet’s medical records and vaccination history in the emergency kit.
  • Include your pet’s license information.
  • Have a current photograph of your pet in the kit.
  • Keep a checklist in the kit of items to pull together when a disaster is imminent, including these:
    Collar: Make sure your pet’s collar has an identification tag with your contact information.
    Leash: Use a leash if you evacuate or bring your pet to a shelter because pets can become easily disoriented if they slip away from you.
    Carrier: Have a properly sized pet carrier for each animal handy. Carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
    Medications: Have a two-week supply of medications and care instructions to bring with you.
    Food: A two-week supply of food should always be kept on-hand in case of an emergency.
    Other: Make a list of other items to add at the last minute such as food, bowls, can opener, cat litter, water and cleaning supplies.
  • Have an evacuation strategy: Have a list including addresses and phone numbers of specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics, and friends and relatives out of harm’s way who are potential refuges for your pet during a disaster. Familiarize yourself with the location of each so if you need to evacuate, you can plan your route accordingly.

During a Disaster

  • Gather together in one place all items on your pet’s emergency checklist. A laundry basket is easy to carry and a good size for this purpose.
  • Animals brought to a pet shelter may be required to have any or all of the following:
    Leash and collar with identification tag
    Rabies tag
    Identification on all belongings
    Suitable carrier or cage
    Ample supply of food, water and food bowls
    Necessary medications and specific, written care instructions
    Newspapers, trash bags and other supplies for clean-up
  • Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first-served basis. Call ahead and determine availability.
  • Bring pets indoors well in advance of a storm. Reassure and calm them throughout.
  • Monitor your pets’ behavior, because animals can become defensive or aggressive due to the stress of the situation.

After A Disaster

  • Walk pets on leashes until they become re-oriented to the area. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, debris, snakes and other critters brought in with high water can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
  • If your pet is lost during a disaster, contact your local animal control office to find out where lost animals are being housed. Bring along the picture of your pet and information about the microchip.


BluePearl hospitals offer referral-only, specialty care services and most offer 24-hour emergency care. The company is one of the world’s principal providers of approved veterinary residency and internship programs.