When making an emergency plan for your family, you should always include considerations for your pet. Whether you decide to shelter in place during an emergency, or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans that include your pets.
Make a Plan for Your Pets
When making an Emergency Plan for your Pets:
Buddy System: Ask a neighbor to take care of your pet if you aren’t home when a disaster happens. Don’t forget to offer to do the same for your neighbor’s pets!
- Make a list of pet-related information for your neighbor. Include feeding schedules, dietary restrictions, medical conditions, and your veterinarian’s contact information.
Evacuation Planning: Take your pet with you during an evacuation. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance. Do NOT leave your pets behind!
- Evacuation Planning: Take your pet with you during an evacuation. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance. Do NOT leave your pets behind!
Sheltering: For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. To see if there is a pet shelter nearby or attached to an emergency shelter, contact DC Health’s Animal Services Program at (202) 535-2323 and check the HSEMA mobile application.
- Service animals are not considered pets and will be allowed into shelters with their owners.
Preparedness: Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer. Ensure you have copies of your pet’s veterinarian records and medical informaiton on a USB flashdrive or physical copies in your kit.
Emergency Kit: Make a pet emergency kit. Tips on what should be in the kit are below.
Build a Kit for Your Pets
In addition to the General Emergency Kit, you should also prepare a kit for your pet. It should have the following items:
- Food: Enough canned/dry food for 3 to 7 days (get pop top cans or have a can opener on hand).
- Water: Enough water to last for 3 to 7 days.
- Pet Dishes: Bring pet food and water dishes so your pet can be taken care of on the go.
- Medicine: A two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires.
- Documents/Photos: Make sure you have your pet’s ID, medical/vaccine records, and recent photos. Store them in a waterproof/fireproof container.
- First Aid: Keep a pet first aid kit handy, similar to what is in a normal first-aid kit.
- Pet Waste: Pack litter, potty pads, and waste bags for your pet. Paper towels and trash bags are helpful too.
- Collars, Leashes, Harnesses, Muzzles, Carriers: These items will help you safely transport your pet. Make sure your pet is comfortable with whatever transportation item you use!
- Personal Items: Your pet’s bed and toys, if you can easily take them with you. Familiar objects can help comfort some pets.
After a Disaster
Keep in mind the following in the aftermath of a disaster. Your home and neighborhood may be a different place and can cause your pet stress.
Confine Pets: Don’t let your pet roam loose. Old landmarks, smells, and fences might be gone. Your pet may become disoriented and lost.
- Make sure your pet continues to wear it’s identification in case it gets lost.
Use Caution: Watch any unfamiliar animal’s behavior before getting too close. Approach lost pets with caution. Animals become stressed after a disaster and may have changes to behavior.
- If changes to your pet’s or another’s pet continue, contact your veterinarian and try to keep your pet confined or leashed.
Report Lost and Found Animals: Contact DC Health’s Animal Services at (877) 672-2174 to report missing or found animals. More information can be found here.
Animal Exposure: If you are scratched, bitten, or attacked by any animal immediately seek medical attention. Safely try to confine your pet so that it cannot attack others. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Additional Pet Preparedness Tips
- Pet IDs: Make sure your pet is always wearing an ID containing their name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs.
- Different pets have different needs. Make your pet a special emergency plan and kit just for them! Some examples are listed below.
- Hot Weather: Provide ample shade and water for your pet. Run cool water and apply ice packs over your pet. Limit exercise during hot weather emergencies and watch for signs of heat stroke.
- Cold Weather: If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold outside for your pets. Keep your pet safely indoors with you in extreme cold weather. Consider additional blankets and a sweater for pets that get cold easily. Do not let your pet lick rock salt, brine, or snow runoff on roads.
- Birds: Bring a spacious cage to transport your bird safely and comfortably. Bring a blanket to cover the bird cage. This can reduce the stress of traveling on your bird. For hot weather, carry a spray bottle to mist your bird’s feathers and keep it cool.
- Reptiles: Pack a lightweight travel cage or tank, and additional heating items including lamps.
- For hot weather, take a water bowl to soak your reptile in.
- For cold weather, pack heating pads to keep your reptile warm.
- Fish: If necessary to evacuate your fish, pack a lightweight travel tank, 3 days of fresh swimmable water, and a net to transfer your fish from the tank quickly.
- Small Animals (Hamsters, Guinea Pigs, etc.): Bring a cage or carrier that secures your pet’s safety.
- Pack a week’s worth of bedding for your small pet.
- If you can’t bring your pet: If you aren’t able to bring your pet during an evacuation, contact DC Animal Care and Control at (202) 576-6664 and report your pet’s location.
- DC Health: Animal Services Emergency Preparedness
- DC Health: Pets and Disasters Preparedness Guide
- DC Health: Inclement Weather – Emergency Pet Preparedness
- DC Health: Lost and Found Animals
- DC Health: Rabies and Animal Exposures
- FEMA Ready.gov: Pets and Animals
- Humane Society: Pet Disaster-Preparedness Kit
- Humane Society: Keep Pets Safe in the Heat
- Humane Society: 5 Ways to Protect Pets in Winter
- ASPCA: Disaster Preparedness