Past emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina have shown that families with pets need to plan how they will take care of them during a crisis. If time and safety permit, take your pet with you! Pets should not be left behind during an evacuation because they could be lost, injured or even killed as a result of the emergency.
If it is absolutely not possible to take your pet when you evacuate, follow these guidelines:
- Post a highly visible sign in a window to let rescue workers know how many pets were left behind.
- Leave plenty of water in a large, open container which cannot be tipped over.
- Leave dry food in timed feeders to prevent your pet from eating a week’s worth of food in one day (check local pet stores).
- Do not tie or cage your pet indoors as their chances for survival are greater if they can escape easily
Caring for Your Pet During an Evacuation
If you and your pet(s) ever have to evacuate your home, please be aware, with the exception of service animals (i.e. guide dogs), pets are often not permitted inside emergency shelters (although communities will usually make arrangements to accommodate pets near the emergency shelter).
So, before an emergency occurs, you should consider how you would care for your pet(s) if you could not take them with you to an emergency shelter.
- Ask friends and relatives outside of your immediate area whether they would care for your pet(s) in an emergency.
- Contact hotels and motels outside of your immediate area and ask whether they allow pets, or have restrictions on the number, size and type of pet.
- Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who would be willing to shelter pets in the event of an emergency (humane societies often do not have extra capacity at their shelters and will also be busy caring for their own animals).
- Keep a list of all “pet friendly” places and their telephone numbers so that you can call ahead for reservations in an impending emergency.
Have an Emergency Supplies Kit for Pets!
Just as you should prepare an emergency supplies kit for you and your family, prepare an emergency kit for your pet(s) to keep them comfortable for at least seven days. This kit should be stored in an easy to carry duffle bag or container next to your own emergency kit. The following is a list of items that should be included in your pet's emergency supplies kit:
- Food and water for seven days (an average-sized dog needs about four litres of water per day and cats, one litre)
- Bowls, paper towel and a manual can opener
- Small toy or chew toys
- Sturdy leash and harness (Note: harnesses are recommended for safety and security as pets may act unpredictably when stressed)
- Scoopable litter or a week's worth of cage liner
- Long leash and yard stake
- Litter/pan and plastic bags
- Carrier for transport
- Medications and medical records (including vaccination records)
- Current photo of your pet (in case your pet gets lost)
- Pre-written information on feeding schedules, special needs or medical or behavioural problems
- Up-to-date ID tag with your phone number and the name/phone number of your veterinarian
- Copy of license (as required, depending on the pet)
- Muzzle (remember, pets may act out of character when stressed or frightened)
Emergency supply requirements vary for different kinds of pets. Should you have questions about the care of your pet and the items that should be included in their emergency supplies kit, please refer to the web links at the bottom of this page, or contact your veterinarian.
Pet Behaviour During a Crisis…
Animals can become anxious during emergencies. If possible, keep your pet in a carrying cage with a familiar blanket and toy, so your pet feels as secure as possible. Do not leave your pet alone, with strangers or off a leash at any time. During an emergency, your pet may panic, behave in a distressed manner, run away, or because of their distressed state, they may even bite or attack someone.
REMEMBER… during an emergency, you are still responsible for your own pet!
Appoint a Caregiver
You may not be home when an emergency happens, or an evacuation advisory is issued. So, prepare now and ask a trusted neighbour to evacuate your pet if necessary. This person should know and be comfortable with your pet, have a key to your home and know where your pet's emergency kit is located.
When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close by. They should typically be home during the day while you're at work, or have easy access to your home. This could work well with neighbours who have pets of their own - you may even agree to look after each other's pets, depending on when an emergency occurs.
When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other things… This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet should something happen to you. When selecting this "foster parent," consider someone who knows your pet and has cared for animals in the past.
Information sources: Sarnia & District Humane Society, Emergency Management Ontario, British Columbia SPCA, American SPCA.