Pets Need Plans for Disasters Too

Golden retriever holding preparedness brochure
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 11:40am

Pets—whether furry, scaled or feathered—are valued members of any family. When disasters strike, many families are at a loss of what to do with their pets, especially if they must evacuate. That’s why throughout the month of June, which is also Pet Preparedness Month, emergency management teams are encouraging pet owners to incorporate their animal friends into their emergency plans.

Creating a family emergency plan commonly involves building an emergency kit with life sustaining essentials, creating an evacuation plan and memorizing emergency contact information. A few extra steps should be taken for those with pets to account for an animal’s needs and safety during an emergency. Pets can’t prepare for emergencies, but their owners can! To celebrate Pet Preparedness Month and general readiness, we’ve outlined our top tips for ensuring you and your pet have the confidence to face an emergency.

Build a Kit

When incorporating a pet into an emergency plan, start with a pet-specific emergency kit. This kit can include items like food and water (enough for 3 to 7 days), but should also have feeding dishes, ID tags with owner contact information, immunization records, a carrying case/cage and a proper fitting muzzle. Emergencies and being in new places can be just as nerve wrecking for pets as it is for humans. Having a duplicate of your pet’s favorite toy, bed or blanket in an emergency kit can help settle them when they are nervous. Treats are also a good way to entice your pet to remain calm in an unfamiliar setting.

Practice Evacuating

The old saying “practice makes perfect” applies to evacuating with a pet. Not only should pet owners practice loading and transporting their pets to allow the animals time to get comfortable traveling in a vehicle, but also to set a routine in motion that can be followed when it really counts. If a pet needs to be transported in a carrier, also practice lining and securing the carrier for travel. 

Locate Pet-Friendly Shelters

There are several shelter options for pet owners if they must leave home with their pet. County shelters will signify if they are pet-friendly and what types of animals are allowed. Owners may be required to kennel their animals or keep them in their crates or cages in a separate area in the shelter. 

North Carolina has several pet-friendly hotels and motels throughout the state. If you are unsure about a hotel’s pet policy, it is always best to call ahead and ask. Keep a list of pet-friendly hotels or boarding facilities with your pet’s emergency kit so that it is handy on-the-go.

If sheltering in place with a pet, limit their time outdoors and always keep them on a leash and out of hazardous storm debris and floodwaters.

Know How to Reconnect with Your Pet

It’s hard to think about leaving a pet somewhere if evacuating, but that may be the only choice for some pet owners. Whether dropping a pet off at a friend’s, a boarding facility or shelter, have developed and digital photos of you and your pet that prove ownership. This will save time and a lot of stress when retrieving a pet. Having available pet photos also comes in handy if your pet runs away or gets lost during a disaster. Microchipping is another method that will make locating a pet easier. 

Disasters can’t always be predicted but having a plan in place can reduce stress and even save lives when they strike. Disaster tips and resources for humans and pets can be found at

Kirsten Barber