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Disaster Preparedness for Your Pets

It could be a house fire, tornado, earthquake or flood that forces you to leave your home with little to no advance warning. Some of these natural disasters are easier to plan ahead for than others, and each requires a different strategy to keep your beloved pets safe.

No matter how many pets your family might have, take the following proactive steps to protect them when you're faced with having to evacuate your home during a disaster.

A group of different pet animals.

Prepare your home and pets in advance for an emergency

There are simple things you can do right now before you're facing a crisis that can make an unfolding disaster a bit easier to navigate.

  • Put a pet rescue decal on your window. This recognizable sticker placed near your front door lets rescue personnel know that pets are inside your home. You can list the number and types of pets along with your veterinarian's contact information. If you evacuate with your pets, write"EVACUATED" across the sticker, so first responders don't waste time or put themselves in danger looking for your pets.
  • Choose a backup caregiver in case you're not home when an emergency strikes. If your pets spend most of the day alone while you work, designate a family member or neighbor as your temporary pet parent. Select someone who is typically home during the day that you trust with a key to your home.
  • Make an evacuation plan before disaster strikes that includes your pets. Learn which nearby hotels accept pets as well as any size, breed and number limitations. Are local veterinary hospitals or animal shelters able to house pets during emergencies? Remember that human shelters often can't accommodate companion animals.
  • Fit every pet with a collar and ID tag with current contact information. Additionally, your pet should be microchipped, which is a more permanent form of identification that can quickly reunite you if your pet's collar comes off. Most animal shelters have scanners that can read a microchip. Be sure to keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
  • Keep your pet current on all vaccinations and heartworm, flea and tick preventatives.

Readying your pets for an evacuation

It's a good idea to have basic emergency kits, extra leashes and harnesses, and your pets' carriers inside your house at all times in case you have to leave unexpectedly due to a sudden disaster such as a wildfire or earthquake.

If you have some warning, as in the case of a hurricane or flood, and may need to evacuate your house for an extended period, assemble a more comprehensive evacuation kit that contains:

  • Seven days' worth of canned and/or dry food.
  • Bottled water.
  • Pet bowls, plastic spoons and a can opener.
  • Disposable litter trays such as aluminum roasting pans.
  • Litter, paper towels or shredded newspaper.
  • Small and large plastic garbage bags for cleanup.
  • Your pet's medications and copies of medical records.
  • Pet first aid supplies.
  • Recent photos of your pets in case you're separated.
  • Pet beds and toys, space permitting.

Protecting your pets during and after the crisis

If you have outdoor pets, always bring them in the house at the first sign of a storm or upon receiving a disaster warning. Pets can become frightened and disoriented by severe weather or smoke, and wander away from home.

Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash and under your control at all times during the emergency. Don't allow your dog to interact with wildlife or stray animals. Look for hazards, such as spilled chemicals, broken glass and other debris, that pose a danger to your pets.

Be aware that a stressful situation may cause your pet to behave differently. Your normally docile dog may become aggressive or defensive. It's a good idea to crate train your pets at an early age, so you can fill their crates with extra bedding and your pets' favorite toys to comfort them in emergencies.

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