NC State Extension Publications

Plan for Your Pet

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Including pet arrangements into your household disaster planning is crucial. If evacuation becomes necessary, always prioritize taking your pets with you. Leaving pets behind can expose them to various hazards including flooding, structural damage, or lack of food, shelter, and water. Taking them with you helps to ensure their safety and well-being. While trained service dogs are permitted in emergency shelters, other pets may not be allowed due to public health and safety considerations. Planning ahead is necessary to determine where you might be able to find suitable shelter for you and your pet. If you nearest shelter doesn't allow pets, it's essential to have alternative plans in place for your pets. Planning ahead is key, as it could make a significant difference and could save your pet's life.

Is Your Pet Prepared for an Emergency?

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If your pets will be traveling, make sure you have a pet carrier (portable kennel) or crate for each pet. Be sure the carrier is large enough; your pet should be able to stand up and turn around in it. Take time to familiarize your pet with the portable kennel. Initially confine your pet for short periods; then lengthen the time.

Be sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. This is especially important for pets that will be boarded. Most boarding facilities require proof of current rabies and distemper vaccinations. Always keep copies of these records in the case that you have to evacuate on short notice.

Be sure your cat or dog wears a properly fitted collar with a current license (identification) and rabies tag at all times. Take a leash with you when you travel.

Keep an ample supply of pet food and other essentials, like cat litter, with other hurricane supplies. Don’t forget about newspaper, plastic bags, cleaner and disinfectant to properly handle pet wastes.

Plan ahead. Make some phone calls to determine options for pet placement and care if you have to evacuate. Consider all the possibilities:

  • Your Home – It may be necessary for your pet to remain at home if you have to leave. Survey your home and determine the best location away from windows to place the pet during a storm emergency, such as a utility room, bathroom, kitchen, or other tiled areas which can be cleaned easily.
  • Kennels – Survey boarding kennels to determine which will take pets during an emergency. Find out who stays on the premises with the animals in the event of a storm and what provisions would be made if the kennel should have to evacuate from a hurricane or a flood.
  • Veterinarians – Check with veterinary clinics to locate those with boarding facilities.
  • Friends – Ask dependable friends or relatives who live farther inland, away from the coast or river areas, for shelter during the storm emergency.
  • Motels – Call motels to determine if they allow pets. Be sure to check on restrictions on the size and number of pets allowed.

If Your Pet Stays at Home

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In the event tht your pet must remain at home when you evacuate, remember to:

  • Prepare an area for the pet to use inside the house away from the windows, such as a utility room, garage, bathroom, or other tiled area which can be easily cleaned
  • Bring the pet indoors well ahead of the storm.
  • Do not leave any pet outside or tied up during a hurricane.
  • Leave only dry-type foods that are relatively unpalatable to prevent overeating. Use sturdy food containers.
  • Do not leave any treat-type vitamins or minerals supplements. Your pet may get salt poisoning if it overeats the treats.
  • Birds must eat daily to survive. Use special food dispensers if you must leave them behind.
  • Water for pets should be left in a bathtub or other sturdy containers that will not spill.
  • If animals are on special diets and medications, consult a veterinarian.
  • Never leave a cat with a dog, even if the two are normally friendly.
  • Confine and keep small pets (birds, hamsters, etc.) away from cats and dogs.
  • Provide access to high places, such as countertops, in case flooding occurs.
  • Difficult or dangerous animals should be left in special crates or cages to reduce the possibility of escape.

If Your Pet Goes With You

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If your pet evacuates with you, take to following tems:

  • License or identification and rabies tags
  • Vaccination records
  • Steel or fiberglass crate, properly pet-sized
  • Non-spill water and food bowls
  • Newspaper and / or paper towels, litter, scooper, plastic bags for waste
  • Leashes and collar
  • Water in sanitized nonbreakable containers
  • Dried and packaged semimoist foods
  • Special medications
  • Toys, blankets, and special comfort items

After Your Pet Returns Home

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Use caution when allowing a pet outdoors after the storm has passed. Altered scents and landmarks may confuse them, increasing the risk of them becoming lost. Additionally, be aware of downed power lines, as they pose a real danger both to you and to your pets.

For More Information

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For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.

Adapted by Dr. Wilma S. Hammett, Extension Home Environment Specialist, NC State Extension, from Guidelines for Emergency Pet Care, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 1997.

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: May 23, 2014
Revised: Feb. 22, 2019

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