Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings San Diego

Emergency Preparedness for Pets: Simple Steps that Protect Your Companions

Oct 24, 2011 08:15PM ● By Gina McBride

Advances in technology and media communication now give us a front row seat to witness local, national and global disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes that claim human lives, property, wildlife—and pets. In 2005, as the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina unfolded on our television screens, it was heartbreaking to watch as pets were left behind, often wrenched from the arms of their owners during rescue attempts.

The rescue operations frequently weren’t equipped to handle animals, and emergency shelters refused to take pets due to overcrowding, safety concerns and inflexible regulations. Sadly, many pet owners put themselves, as well as responders and rescuers, in danger by refusing to evacuate if they had to leave their pets behind. In 2006, congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, making it mandatory for emergency preparedness plans to include pets in order to receive federal funding.

According to the 2011-2012 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet. This equates to 72.9 million homes with four-legged family members that need to be included in emergency plans.

The natural catastrophes suffered worldwide during 2011 demonstrate that Mother Nature’s power is unpredictable and should never be underestimated. Our only defense is to be as prepared as possible, both as family units and as a community. Follow these simple steps to protect your precious pets.

Pet Identification

Pets should have a well-fitting collar with a tag that contains pertinent contact information, including your cell phone number, email address (more likely to be accessible during a disaster) and the phone number of a contact who lives far away.

Microchip your pet for identification. This can be done at your vet’s office or a local animal shelter. Keep the contact information current—an up-to-date microchip is a precaution that can help reunite you and your companion if you are separated during an emergency or if your pet is simply lost.

Pet Emergency Preparedness Kit

Prepare a brightly colored pack with a few days of supplies for each pet. Include water and water-purifying tablets, pet food and treats, bowls, a manual can opener and a leash, as well as a spare or small carrier, a few familiar toys and a small blanket or pillow with the “scent of home.” Also pack a supply of your pet’s medications (you might need to rotate these to maintain freshness), a pet first-aid kit with instructions and a set of booties to protect your pet’s feet from broken glass and debris. A contact list for shelters, clinics and veterinarians

Photo: Gina McBride
Photo: Gina McBride
should also be included. Store your pet’s emergency pack, along with your own, in an accessible location.

Medical and Photo Records

Copies of your pet’s medical records, listing vaccinations (make sure they are current) and prescribed medications, should be added to the emergency pack. For identification purposes, include extra photos of you and your pet together, as well as multiple copies of a pet identification form that has contact information and a complete description of your pet. These can be posted at shelters or central locations if you and your pet are separated.

Pet Rescue Decals

Post pet rescue decals on windows at home, and carry pet rescue cards in your wallet or purse.

First-Aid Classes for Family and Pets

Taking basic first-aid classes designed for your family and pets will provide skills you may need. If a disaster should strike, try to calmly assess the situation and quickly follow your plan to unite your family and pets and move to a safe place, if necessary. Being properly prepared for emergencies increases your odds for a good outcome.


Gina McBride, CFP, owns a wealth management and communications firm, where she advises clients to include pets in their estate planning. Listen to her upcoming Internet Radio Talk Café. Call 760-918-9361 or email [email protected]. McBride is also the co-owner of Animal House Pet Care (AHPC) and Rescue, in Carlsbad, with her daughter, Susan McBride, as operating owner. Call 760-635-3978, email [email protected] or visit AnimalHousePetCare.com to download additional emergency preparedness information and forms.