Whether it’s hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards, tornadoes or flash floods, it seems no place is immune from a weather disaster — which means every pet owner should have an emergency plan for their fur friends.
Unfortunately, many people in a rush to escape must leave behind pets. For those who do take their animals with them, it can be a struggle to arrange last-minute travel or find shelters that allow pets.
Plus, last-minute care, boarding and supplies can be severely overpriced.
It’s important to have an emergency preparedness plan for when disaster strikes — and it should include a pet emergency kit.
Emergency Preparedness for Pets in 3 Steps
It’s a good idea to begin preparing to keep yourself, your family and your pets safe at the start of your area’s emergency season. Here’s a disaster preparedness checklist for your pets.
1. Assemble a Pet Emergency Kit
When you gather supplies for an emergency kit for yourself and your household, don’t forget to put a disaster kit together for your furry friends, too. Make sure you have this kit handy regardless of whether you think you will evacuate your home — weather conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly.
Here’s what your pet emergency kit should include, according to PetsWelcome.com:
- A collar and ID tags with a name and contact information (if the animal doesn’t wear one regularly).
- The phone number and address for your vet and a vet emergency clinic in the area you’ll be staying.
- Updated medical records and tags in a waterproof bag or sleeve.
- Medications (your vet may be able to give you an extra supply if your pet depends on the drugs to survive) and a pet first aid kit — here’s a checklist of what it should include.
- Current photos of your pet to help with identification if you become separated.
- A few copies of your pet’s feeding habits, notable behaviors, medication schedule and medical conditions, if applicable, in case the pet has to be boarded or placed in foster care suddenly.
- A small toy, pillow, blanket or bed that brings your pet comfort.
- Weather-related accessories that keep your pet safe and calm (thundershirt, booties, paw balm, supplements, flotation device).
- Food and water bowls, plus extra food and treats. (And don’t forget a manual can opener, if necessary.)
- Plastic waste bags, paper towels, lightweight cat litter and a travel-size litter box. (And a small flashlight for late-night bathroom trips.)
- Dry shampoo, wipes, a towel and whatever else you may need for a quick cleanup.
- A leash, harness and travel crate that is comfortable even over long periods of time.
After you’ve packed your kit — including the first aid supplies — check it every few months to refresh items that have expired or need to be replaced.
2. Get Ready Before Disaster Strikes
Before bad seasonal weather or disasters are expected in your area, there are some things you should do to ensure your pet will remain safe and well cared for.
Here’s what to do now, before a natural disaster arrives:
- If your pets are overdue for any shots, take them to the vet now so you’re not left scrambling to make an appointment while a storm approaches. An unvaccinated pet may not be allowed into shelters, hotels, boarding facilities or foster care.
- Contact hotels, motels and emergency shelters on your planned evacuation routes to ensure they accept pets. (Specify that you are seeking information on emergency evacuation situations, and they may be able to explain their “in case of emergency” procedures and allowances.) Make a list of the places that do.
- Make a list of any veterinarians or boarding facilities along your planned evacuation routes in case you are required to drop off your pets as you’re seeking shelter with your family.
- If your evacuation plan includes staying with family or friends in another region, contact them to ensure they are OK with your pets staying, too.
3. Take Care of Your Pets During the Emergency (or Find Someone Who Can)
If you have to leave your home, don’t leave your pets behind.
Pets who are left behind in emergency situations are often sent to animal shelters or homes in another area — or could end up lost or dead.
Weather-related disasters aren’t the only emergencies. In addition to preparing your emergency kit, ask a family member or friend who can take care of your pets if you become ill.
If you are evacuating, don’t leave your pet locked in your home with extra bowls of food and water. You can’t guarantee how long you will be gone, how severely the weather will affect your home or how your pet will react when left alone for so long under stressful conditions.
Do not leave a pet tied to a fence, light post or telephone pole or turn your pet loose to roam freely outside. Do not leave pets locked in a car, on a boat or otherwise stranded. This is considered animal cruelty, and you may be fined or worse.
If you become separated from your pet for any reason, first contact the animal control agency in your area, then check with Find My Lost Pet for a list of websites that have information on animals rescued amid a natural disaster.
A pet is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility is keeping your animal pal protected during an emergency situation.
Just remember, preparation is the key to keeping yourself and those you love (humans and animals) safe.
Grace Schweizer is the social media manager at The Penny Hoarder.