Don’t Forget the Furry Members of Your Family When Preparing for a Disaster

dog on the couch with man
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Every state or region deals with its own versions of inclement weather and natural disasters — everything from wildfires and tornadoes to earthquakes and flash floods.

In Florida (and throughout much of the southern, coastal and tropical regions of the U.S.), it’s hurricane season, which begins on June 1 and lasts for six months.

The 2017 hurricane season was especially horrendous, causing many people to flee their homes, leaving behind anything they couldn’t carry as they evacuated.

Unfortunately, many people also left their pets behind, trapped in homes threatened by rising floodwaters or chained to telephone poles or fences.

For those who did take their animals with them, it was a struggle to arrange last-minute travel or arrangements with shelters that would allow for pets.

Plus, last-minute care, boarding and supplies can be severely overpriced.

But with another hurricane season looming, and with the other various but all-too-frequent threats from Mother Nature we’ve been seeing recently, it’s important to have an action plan for when disaster strikes — and it should be one that involves your pets.

Prepare to Care for Your Pet During an Emergency

It’s a good idea to begin preparing to keep yourself, your family and your pets safe at the start of the emergency season your area faces. These tips from can help.

Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit

When you put your emergency kit together for yourself and your household, don’t forget to put an emergency kit together for your furry friends, too. You should have this kit handy whether you think you will evacuate your home or not.

Here’s what your pet emergency kit should include:

  • A collar and ID tags with a name and contact information (if the animal doesn’t wear one regularly).
  • Medical tags and updated records (in a waterproof bag or sleeve).
  • Medications (your vet may be able to give you an extra supply if your pet depends on the drugs to survive) and a pet first aid kit.
  • Current photos of your pet to help with identification if you become separated.
  • A few copies of your pet’s feeding habits, notable behaviors, medication schedule and medical conditions, if applicable, in case the pet has to be boarded or placed in foster care suddenly.
  • A small toy, pillow, blanket or bed that brings your pet comfort.
  • Food and water bowls and extra food.
  • Plastic waste bags, lightweight cat litter and a travel-size litter box.
  • A leash, harness and travel crate that is comfortable even over long periods of time.

Before Disaster Strikes

Before bad seasonal weather or disasters are expected in your area, there are some things you should do to ensure your pet will remain safe and well cared for.

Here’s what to do now, before a natural disaster arrives:

  • If your pets are overdue for any shots, take them to the vet now so you’re not left scrambling to make an appointment while a storm approaches. An unvaccinated pet may not be allowed into shelters, hotels, boarding facilities or foster care.
  • Contact hotels, motels and emergency shelters on your planned evacuation routes to ensure they accept pets. (Specify that you are seeking information on emergency evacuation situations, and they may be able to explain their “in case of emergency” procedures and allowances.) Make a list of the places that do.
  • Make a list of any veterinarians or boarding facilities along your planned evacuation routes in case you are required to drop off your pets as you’re seeking shelter with your family.
  • If your evacuation plan includes staying with family or friends in another region, contact them to ensure they are OK with your pets staying, too.

Take Care of Your Pets in Case of Emergency

If you have to leave your home, don’t leave your pets behind.

Pets who are left behind in emergency situations are often sent to homes in another state or area or end up lost or dead.

If you are evacuating, don’t leave your pet locked in your home with extra bowls of food and water. You won’t be able to guarantee how long you will be gone, how severely the weather will affect your home or how your pet will react when left alone for so long under stressful conditions.

Do not leave a pet tied to a fence, light post or telephone pole or turn your pet loose to roam freely outside. Do not leave pets locked in a car, on a boat or otherwise stranded with no hope of escape. This is considered to be animal cruelty, and you may be fined or worse.

A pet is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility is keeping your animal pal protected during an emergency situation.

Just remember, preparation is the key to keeping yourself and those you love (humans and animals) safe.

Grace Schweizer is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.