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Pet Safety

Pet Evacuations and Sheltering

According to DHS, over 60% of households in the United States have at least one pet or service animal.  In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognized the need to include pets in emergency preparedness plans.  In 2006, the DHS passed the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006 which amended the Robert T. Stafford Act, providing essential assistance to individuals with household pets and service animals following a disaster.  This move provides for a more comprehensive approach to emergency preparedness, response, and recovery by including pets and pet safety in our disaster plans.

Considering the prevalence of pets and service animals in U.S. households, it is evident that many humans count them as beloved friends, companions, and even family members. The loss of a household pet or service animal can, therefore, be similar to the intense pain that accompanies the loss of a friend.  To reduce the chances that you will be separated from your pet(s) or service animal(s), you should plan ahead and prepare for your pets needs during a disaster.

While the ADA guarantees a service animal may remain with the person served in any public accommodation (e.g., a shelter set up in response to a disaster), the ADA does not ensure other aspect of caring for that service animal during disasters. Owners of service animal(s) should prepare to provide food and water for their service animal during an emergency, both at home and when staying in an emergency shelter. Access to veterinary care is also not guaranteed during an evacuation so plans should be made for alternative care.

Many of the recommendations made for humans in disaster preparedness also apply to pets and service animals.  You should have a disaster plan for yourself, your family and your pets and service animals. Included in that plan should be an evacuation plan that includes your pets and service animals.  This plan should have multiple evacuation routes, where possible, in case some roads are impassible. You should practice your plan with your family, household pets, and service animals until you can evacuate within a few minutes. Individuals with disabilities that would need assistance during an evacuation register online through this website.  Decide on a place where your family will meet if you get separated. Identify contacts out of the area or out of State that you can call in case you need help or to let people know you are safe.

One of the most important disaster preparedness steps for your pets and service animals is to assemble a disaster kit containing basic necessities and important information. The kit should include information and items you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate. Remember to:

  • Store your disaster kit in an area where it can easily be retrieved.

  • Check the contents of the disaster kit twice a year when the clocks change for daylight savings.

  • Rotate all foods into use and replace with fresh food every 2 months.

  • Ensure that your pet has an identification tag on its collar that contains your name, address, phone number, and emergency phone number.

  • Make certain that your pet is microchipped prior to any disaster or emergency.

  • Familiarize your pet with the crate or traveling carrier prior to any disaster or emergency.

  • Familiarize your pet with being transported by vehicle prior to any disaster or emergency.

  • Ensure that your pets vaccinations are kept current

  • Develop a contingency plan to evacuate your pets if something happens when you are at work.

While it is not recommended that you leave your pets behind, if you must, there are some very important steps that you can take to ensure the safety of your pet until you can return:

  • Never leave your household pet(s) and service animal(s) tied up outside or let them loose to fend for themselves. Animal control shelters may need to treat loose animals as abandoned and they may be euthanized.

  • Do not leave unfamiliar foods and treats. They may overeat, which can lead to intestinal problems. Provide water in a heavy bowl that cannot be tipped over.

  • Always keep exotic animals in separate rooms. Leave warnings and handling instructions.

  • Paste labels clearly for rescue workers about the animals they will encounter.

  • Make sure somebody knows where you can be contacted and knows the needs and location of your household pets and service animals.

Keep in mind that leaving your household pets and service animals behind in a disaster may decrease its chances of survival.

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