Have a Pet Plan
The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner or have larger animals (i.e. livestock) it is important that you also consider their needs when developing your disaster plan.
If you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS OR ANIMALS BEHIND. It is unlikely for pets or larger animals to survive on their own. If by some chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return. Prepare now and protect your family and pets before the next disaster strikes.
Service animals who assist people with disabilities are allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research. Many communities are developing pet friendly shelter plans, check to see if your local emergency shelter plan includes pets.
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area (outside of an evacuation zone) to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if "no pet” policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations. Go to Pet's Welcome to search pet friendly hotels and motels.
- Ask friends, relatives, or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
- Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
- Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you will need essential supplies to care for your pet. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (duffle bags, covered trash containers, etc.). Your pet disaster supply kit should include:
- Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals cannot escape.
- Photo of you and your pet(s) – in the event you are separated from your pet, having an updated photo with your pet will help validate pet ownership.
- Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
- Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.
You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. However, bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Do not leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. When you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.
When planning for larger animals (i.e. livestock), take the following into consideration when developing your disaster plan:
- Disaster supply kit that includes, but is not limited to the following items:
- Form of identification for each animal
- Food and water
- Handling equipment
- Dry bedding
- Develop an evacuation plan to include different routes and possible shelter sites suitable for your animals.
- Ensure you have the necessary resources to transport your animals – vehicles, trailers and experienced drivers and handlers.
- Animal-Related Emergency Response
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) serves as the lead agency for the State Emergency Response Team Emergency Support Function 17 (Animal and Agricultural Issues). Please click here to view additional information and resources to help you prepare a disaster plan for your animals.