Preparing Your Pets for Natural Disasters

Wild fires, hurricanes, earthquakes — clearly, the time to prepare for natural disasters is NOW.

Do you have a plan in place? The Humane Society of the United States — who assisted more than 15,000 animals during hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria — says more and more people are developing disaster plans with their pets in mind.

It’s essential that when disaster strikes, you’re ready rather than overwhelmed. Follow the Humane Society’s suggestions for preparing for these emergency situations.

Make sure your pet is easy to identify. 

Name tags with identifying information — like name, address and phone number — are a good idea every day of the year and especially during disasters since your pet can’t tell people to whom they belong. It’s way harder to scan a microchip in a disaster situation, so a name tag with easily understood information will save time should you and your pet ever be separated.

Think hard about where your “safe place” will be.

If you can’t be at home during a crisis because of flooding or lack of power, where will you go? Ask family and friends in advance if they’d consider having you and your furry friend as houseguests. Or call your veterinarian or shelter for accommodation options. The HSUS suggests calling your local office of emergency management before a disaster happens to find out if you’ll be allowed to evacuate with your pet and determine whether there will be shelters in the area that take people with pets (some don’t!). Call hotels or motels and find out their pet policies and identify the ones that will work for you. You never want to be stuck with no place to go at the very last minute.

Create a “go bag” or emergency kit.

These important bags will include items that will help you in a crisis situation for a period of 3 to 5 days.  “For most pets you would want:  bowls, medication, comfort item, food, water, ID, leash, collar, first aid kit, sanitation items, things of that nature,” says Wanda Merling, deputy director of operations for the HSUS. Top tip: Your emergency kit should include written info about your pet’s feeding schedule, medical conditions, and behavior issues should your pet end up being cared for at a shelter or boarding facility. For more info about how to prepare a kit, click here.

Keep pets up to date on shots. 

Regular vet visits are always advised for general pet well-being, but it’s especially important during a natural disaster. If your pet could potentially be housed with other animals, make sure they’re up to date on all of the shots that they need.

Make a plan for your pet if you’re away from home. 

Planning a business trip during hurricane season? Working late during a blizzard and unable to get home? Always prepare for the unthinkable if you’re leaving your pet alone. The HSUS advises that you make arrangements well in advance for someone you trust to care for your pet — and don’t forget to give that person the house key! And show them all of Fido’s favorite hiding places (and the location of your “go bag!”) because weather disasters can be scary.

If you’re staying home during a natural disaster, stay safe and stock up!

If you plan to wait out a storm or other natural disaster, seek out a safe place in your home where the entire family can hunker down, the HSUS says, and plan to bring your outdoor animal indoors.  Move dangerous items, cover or eliminate nooks where a pet may hide, buy a radio so you can hear local news reports, and make sure your supplies (food, water, flashlights, and all the essentials!) are easy to access.

Everyday emergencies happen, so be ready.

“So many think, ‘It will never happen to me.’ But it’s not just hurricanes or tornadoes.  It’s house fires or water breaches, even hazmat issues,” Merling explains. “Being prepared is certainly one thing, having a plan is another. But making sure that you practice your plan — and can actually pick up your “go bags” — are paramount.”

To read more tips from the Humane Society, visit their website.

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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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