Are Your Pets Prepared for Natural Disasters?

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on September 6, 2017.

After Hurricane Harvey, a massive rescue and recovery operation took place in Texas to help tens of thousands of displaced people — and animals. And following terrifyingly large wildfires in California, rescuers came to the aid of countless pets and livestock.

It’s always a good time to talk about safety, but September is National Preparedness Month – and, as these events have shown, disaster can strike at any time.

After Hurricane Katrina, when some 250,000 pets were abandoned in the city, Congress passed the PETS Act, which mandated institutional disaster planning for household pets. But in order to succeed, the PETS Act needs cooperation from pet guardians, too.

If you and your pets aren’t ready, the consequences could be devastating. After years of talking with veterinarians and animal care experts during disasters like Harvey, I have the lowdown on pet emergency preparedness – and it’s something to do today, not tomorrow.

Here are eight tips to protect your animal companions in the event of a natural disaster.

1. Update Pet ID

All of your pets should be microchipped, and you should make sure the associated information is current. If you don’t have documentation for your microchip, ask your vet to scan it. In addition, your animals should wear collars with current tags, and you may want to consider an out-of-area backup or secondary number. If you have to evacuate your home, your phone service may be disrupted.

In addition, tag your pet’s carrier or crate. Include your pet’s name and description, current address and phone, and backup contact information. If you can, attach a photograph too.

2. Document Everything

Assemble a packet of your pet’s identifying documentation, including veterinary records and contact information, microchip data, evidence of vaccines and current photographs. If your pet has specific veterinary needs, like an ongoing medical condition, make a note of that. Behavioral issues, like dog aggression, should be listed as well. If you get separated from your pet, this information could be lifesaving.

Now put together a second one.

Keep one set of information in your vehicle with emergency evacuation supplies, and keep another in a safe place — like a waterproof bag taped to your pet’s carrier. This information can help shelter personnel take care of your pet and give you peace of mind.

3. Ensure a Cozy Carrier

Make sure your small animals — bunnies, cats and dogs — are comfortable with their carriers. Some pet parents leave carriers or crates out all the time, so pets think of them as a natural part of the landscape — or even a safe place to hide. That way you can scoop your pals up quickly if there’s an evacuation order. Remember that floodwaters and fire can move rapidly and  unexpectedly, so don’t assume there’s time to fish a carrier out of the attic “if things start to look bad.”

4. Create a Travel Plan

If there’s an evacuation order or you need to voluntarily leave your home, where will you go? Do you have friends out of the danger zone you can stay with? Are they prepared to house your animals? Do you know how to get there? Do you have a backup plan?

If you’re counting on a shelter, do you know where to find them within your community? Do they accept animals?

5. Consider Exotics and Livestock

While cats and dogs often make headlines, pets come in all shapes and sizes. Fragile animals like rabbits and birds may need special care in disasters — and if you have to stay in a shelter, they may not be prepared. Specifically ask if disaster planning includes these less common pets.

Livestock aren’t covered under the PETS Act, though many states have included livestock rescue in their disaster planning. Whether you have beloved horses, sheep, goats or cattle, think about how you’d move them quickly in an emergency. If you don’t have a stock trailer, does a neighbor have room in theirs? Once evacuated, do you know where they can find shelter — perhaps county fairgrounds or private stables that open up in emergencies?

6. Assemble a “Go Bag”

Just as you should keep a go bag for humans — one filled with your own special documents, medication, first aid supplies, food and water — you should also have one for pets. Make sure you include an ample supply of clean water, food, feeding containers, extra leashes and collars, blankets and other supplies. The government recommends that humans have at least 72 hours worth of supplies – and the same goes for your pets.

7. Plan for Separation

Even with the best-laid plans, you can become separated from your animals. And that’s why microchipping is imperative: It’s the most effective way to reunite you with your lost pets. Collars are also important, ensuring your animal won’t be mistaken for a stray and taken in by a well-meaning person.

If you are separated, contact animal welfare groups working in your area. Tell them where you live and where your pet was last seen. Provide them with a detailed physical description, including notes about any unique identifying markings, and give them contact information that will still be good in three to six months – it can take a long time to reunite people with their pets. If you’re uncertain about where you’ll be, consider giving them the contact information of a friend or family member from out of the area.

8. Help Others

You know the saying about putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others? Once you’ve planned for your own pets, check in with neighbors.

Do you have an elderly or disabled neighbor who might need help setting up an evacuation plan? Do you know someone who can’t drive, and can you offer room in your car? Are you willing to commit to checking on and rescuing neighbors’ pets if they’re stranded out of the area? Set up a safety net to protect the humans and animals of your neighborhood.

Photo credit: United States Department of Defense


Marie W
Marie W10 days ago

Thank you

Gino C
Gino C11 days ago


Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago


Jack Y
Jack Y2 months ago


Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley6 months ago

Thank you.

Marge F
Marge F6 months ago

Thank you for posting this informative article.

Fran F
Fran F6 months ago

Thank you for posting this important information!

Madison Idso
Madison Idso6 months ago

My pets and my plants are part of my family. I would rather die than leave them behind and I truly mean it.

Sheila Miller
Sheila Miller6 months ago

My pets are part of the family. I would never leave them. If we had to leave our home, they would come Thanks for the article.

Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela6 months ago

Thank you for above and useful information.