Advice from a Humane Society expert


Preparing for disaster is only half the battle for pet owners. Most of it involves handling pets after the dust settles.

Prepare for a natural disaster is only part of life in areas prone to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and floods. In the event of a disaster, pet owners should follow their contingency plan to bring them and their pets to an emergency shelter.

Handling pets after a disaster can be difficult for many pet owners, even if they feel like preparing for disasters. It can be especially nerve-wracking if this is the first time you’ve actually put all that prep work to good use. To get a better idea of ​​how to deal with animals after a disaster, Wide open pets spoke with Yolanda Berkowitz, founder of the Friends of Miami Animals Foundation and board member of the Humane Society of the United States.

What should pet owners have ready to go?

As soon as you know there is an emergency in the immediate vicinity, you should have your first aid kit and kennel ready to go through your exit door. According to Yolanda Berkowitz, “Planning ahead is the best way to prepare for a disaster. In the event that you need to evacuate, you should have a pet emergency kit ready to go so that nothing is left to chance. Make sure you have all of the essentials for your pet emergency kit. “

According to Berkowitz, your pet emergency kit should include the following:

  • Collar and tags with a sturdy leash (include extras) ON YOUR PET
  • ID tags, ID chip and rabies label – REGISTER YOUR MICROCHIP
  • Pet medication (ask your vet to keep extra supplies / medication and a copy of prescriptions for your emergency kit)
  • Current medical records and vaccinations
  • Current photo of each animal with the owner in the event of separation to prove ownership
  • Manual can opener if your pet eats food from a can
  • Canned or dried pet food for 5 days
  • Enough water for your pet for 5 days
  • Cat litter, liners and bins
  • Plastic garbage bags, newspapers, paper towels and disinfectants for cleaning waste
  • Toys and any special comfort items for even a small amount of stress relief
  • Your pet’s crate (s) with bedding intact

Berkowitz noted that you should have an escape plan mapped out for where you and your pet will go.

“Being prepared is the best way to keep your pet safe,” Berkowitz wrote via email. There is nothing quite like being over-prepared in an emergency, especially when handling your pets.

How to transport pets in the event of a disaster?

Pet safety should always be the first thing pet owners think about, even when it comes to getting out of a disaster quickly. According to Berkowitz, “A pet crate or carrier is the safest way to transport your pet in an emergency, even your largest pets. Keeping your pet in an enclosed, familiar space will be the key. better chance you have of keeping him calm, close by, and safe during the evacuation. “

If a pet isn’t comfortable in their crate or carrier, it’s best to familiarize them before an emergency so they know it’s a safe place. However, if for some reason your pet doesn’t have a crate, Berkowitz says you need to make sure they are wearing their collar or harness with up-to-date vaccination identification and tags.

“Your pets’ microchip will also increase the chances that you will be reunited with your pet in case they are lost during the evacuation,” she said.

Make sure your cell phone number is also on your pet’s identification plate. Then, if they are picked up by local animal control and taken to your local animal shelter, they can reunite you with your furry family members if they have all of the correct emergency contact information.

What do pet owners do if their pet can’t stay with them?

RELATED: Everything Your Pet’s Disaster Preparedness Kit Should Include (Just In Case)

It is important that if you have to evacuate your pet, he accompanies you. While your pet can be picked up by first responders, it is more likely that they will be injured, lost or killed if left behind. As part of your emergency plan, Berkowitz says you can always evacuate early.

If you are unsure where your pet can stay with you, you can contact your local emergency management offices. Agencies that typically help with disasters may not accept pets in their temporary shelters. For example, the American Red Cross will not allow pets to stay with you. Plan ahead for a disaster to find a motel where your pet can stay with you.

Berkowitz says that many pet-friendly hotels will allow you to keep your pet with you. Additionally, those who do not generally accept pets can make an exception and open their accessibility to pet owners. If you’re looking for a boarding house or a place for you and your pet, Berkowitz says you can check out these sites:

You can also contact friends and family members who live in another area to see if you can stay with them. If you are away from home frequently and are concerned about the well-being of your pet, you can use the buddy system. Make arrangements with a trusted neighbor to collect your pet and emergency supplies in the event of an unexpected disaster. Sometimes a forest fire or tornado can happen when you are not at home, and you will not be able to get in to get your small animals and other pets out of your house, and it is quite difficult to carry a week of pet food and supplies. like a litter box in your car!

However, be sure to keep a photo of your pet with you at all times in case they end up in a pet shelter, and you must prove that they are yours. You can also carry a waterproof container in the trunk of your car along with plastic bags, a pet first aid kit, and pet emergency supplies so you can be prepared. There is nothing more stressful than worrying about your lost pet while you try to get to safety.

What can pet owners do if they are separated from their pets?

If you and your pet are separated in an emergency, you will be reunited with them the fastest if they are microchipped and have tags. However, if your pet does not have a tag or microchip, Berkowitz says, “Share your pet’s photo and information on social media and ask for help from the community.” You can also visit the local shelter. once you can safely search for your pet. You can also check with your local vet or emergency vet in case they need veterinary care.

Berkowitz added: “Local municipal shelters are the only group responsible for helping pets and their owners during natural disasters.”

She said in an email that the shelters “will likely serve as a communication hub before, during and after the disaster.” As a result, they are the best resource for a pet owner to prepare for a disaster, what to do during, and how to find your pet once the danger has passed.

Shelters will also increase the length of time pets are held to give pet owners time to locate and recover their pets, according to Berkowitz. Managing pets after a disaster will be much easier if you have the locations and phone numbers of your local shelter in advance.

For additional resources on disaster planning, pet owners can consult the Human society,, or consult the CDC website.

Do you have a plan for dealing with pets after a disaster? Let us know about our Great Facebook Pets page.

READ MORE: Transporting pets in an emergency: keeping you and Fido safe in the event of a disaster

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