When disasters make an impact on you, they make an impact on your pet, too. From natural disasters like hurricanes, to personal ones like a house fire, disasters can strike at any time. If you’re displaced from your home for any reason, proper planning will help keep your entire family—including your pets—safe. Follow these steps to create a plan for your pets.

1. Plan Ahead

Contact your local Emergency Management Office or American Red Cross Chapter for information about:

  • Which disasters could occur in your area
  • How to prepare for each disaster
  • How the public is warned (ask about alert and notification systems you can sign up for in your town)
  • Local evacuation routes
  • Special assistance programs for elderly or disabled persons

Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of states’ health and safety regulations and other considerations. Pet owners and caretakers should take the following preparatory steps:

  • Keep your pets current on their vaccinations.
  • Make a list of pet-friendly accommodations in and immediately outside your area and make a reservation if you plan to leave.
  • Ask friends and family outside your immediate area about providing temporary shelter for your pets.
  • Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who might be able to provide shelter in an emergency.
  • Post “Animals Inside” stickers on your doors/windows to alert first responders that you have pets. Include a phone number where you can be reached.
  • Choose a designated caregiver (someone who knows your pets) to care for them if you cannot be reached in the event of an emergency.
  • Ask your pet-sitting service if they can help and find out how much assistance they can provide.
  • Some shelters do not accept animals due to allergy protocols. Find a shelter that is described as “co-located.” This means that pets will have a kennel area separate from people, but close enough for owners to provide care.
  • According to federal law, service animals MUST be sheltered with their owners. You may be required to stay apart from other evacuees, but you cannot be deprived of any supplies or service due to your accompanying animal.

2. Assemble Disaster Pet Supply Kits

Make sure every member of your immediate household knows where these kits are stored. They should include:

  • Current medications
  • Medical/Vaccination records
  • Special medical/behavioral instructions
  • Photo of your pet, a photo of YOU with your pet
  • Medical/Vaccination records and photos should be copied and given to someone OUTSIDE disaster area
  • All ID numbers (license tags/microchips/tattoos)
  • A list of identifying features/marks
  • Emergency contact information for YOU
  • Emergency contact information for your PET (veterinarian, petsitter, etc.)
  • Emergency contact for someone OUTSIDE your area
  • Food/water for 7 days
  • A pet first aid kit
  • 2 extra collars and leashes
  • Collapsible food/water bowls
  • A crate appropriate to the size of your pet
  • Blankets and toys to put in the crate for padding and to reduce stress
  • Cat litter and pan if you have cats

3. As the Disaster Approaches

Evacuation warnings can come hours and even days in advance. Plan to take your pets with you when you evacuate. Leaving your pets behind could be a death sentence. At the first hint of a disaster, act to protect your pets:

  • Leave early; don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order.
  • Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
  • Make sure your disaster supply kits are fully stocked and ready to take at a moment’s notice.
  • Make sure all your pets are inside your home so you don’t have to search for them if you have to evacuate.
  • Make sure your dogs and cats are wearing their collars with securely attached ID information including your contact information and your temporary shelter location.
  • Make sure your designated pet caregiver knows where you will be temporarily sheltered and make pre-arrangements with them to deliver your pets in case evacuation orders come when you are not home.
  • Disaster can cause a great deal of stress for your pets. Make sure your dogs are wearing leashes and your cats/small animals/birds are in carriers. Don’t leave them unattended.

4. After the Storm

Your home may be a very different place when you return. Keep your pets’ safety in mind in the aftermath of the storm. They are still counting on you!

  • Don’t allow your pets to roam loose as familiar landmarks and smells may be gone, causing them to become disoriented or lost.
  • Your house’s exits may be damaged and insecure. Keep your pets in crates or isolated in specific rooms to prevent accidental escape or injury.
  • Be patient and compassionate with your pets. Their behavior may be unusual due to the changes in their routine.
  • If behavior problems persist or health problems develop, consult your veterinarian.
  • If you are not able to live in your home while repairs take place, try to find pet-friendly temporary accommodations for your family until your home is ready for return.