Get pets prepared for all kinds of disasters

How To Prepare Your Pets For Disasters

Disasters will occur as fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, violent storms, and even terrorism. In case of extreme weather or a disaster, would you know what to do to protect your pet? Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can endanger pets, pet owners and first responders. Even if you try to create a safe place for them, animals left behind during a disaster are likely to be injured, lost or worse.

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In 2010, I found myself, 19 foster dogs, and my cat Smokey running for our lives when the nearby Harpeth river water rose to waist high. By the evening of May 1st, water was up to the window sills in a matter of a few minutes. None of us could believe this was happening. Me in a disaster? I ran aimlessly through the house rounding up any dogs I could find and a handful of personal items. 

The neighbor behind my house appeared out of nowhere and helped me carry 15 dogs to my SUV. I could not find 4 of the dogs, so before the water rose any higher, we drove through the darkness looking for a place to stay.

The drive was a quiet one. Everyone was wide-eyed and scared. I called a friend to ask if we could come to her house high on a hill, but water closed all the roads to get there. She told me the nearest shelter, 25 miles away, was at one of the universities in Nashville. Lucky for us, the local humane organization had a large trailer filled with cages there. All 17 of us holed up for there for the next 2 full days it rained.

I never thought I would be in a flood, so I had no plan. Thank goodness the universe protected us all that night and afterward and we recovered. Next time I WILL be prepared just in case.



1. Before a disaster

  • Familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that can affect your area and consider your options for taking care of your pets. Disasters can occur without warning, so be prepared.
  •  Keep good records for each pet so you can get to them quickly. Ask your vet for help in setting up your pet’s veterinary records. There may be a charge for health certificates.
  • Make sure your pet(s) wears a collars tagged with up-to-date contact information and other identifications.  
  • Microchip Your Pets. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet get together if they are apart. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information current with the microchip company. 
  • Keep a leash and carrier near an exit.  
  • Make sure you have the right equipment for pets to travel in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seat belts).
  • Prepare a pet disaster kit so that your evacuation is smooth for your entire family. GET YOUR K9 KIDS DISASTER PLAN KIT PRINTABLE- Free-  CLICK HERE 
  • Learn Pet First Aid
Disaster Kit for pet preparedness
K9 Kids Disaster Kit



2. Write out a plan for all the pets at home

  • Plan where you and your pets will stay if you need to evacuate your home. Remember: Pets are not allowed in local shelters unless they are service animals. Many disaster evacuation centers (such as Red Cross evacuation centers) do not accept pets or other animals.
  • Identify shelters, friends, or relatives outside the city where your pets and other animals can stay.
  • Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near the evacuation shelter and if you cannot return home immediately.
  • Create a friend system if you are not home during an emergency. Ask a trusted neighbor who can care for and evacuate your animals if necessary.
  • Locate a veterinary, animal hospital, humane society or an Air BnB in the area where you may be going to for temporary shelter 

3. Create an emergency kit for pets:

  • Purchase a carrier for each pet write the pet’s name, your name and contact information in permanent marker or etched into the plastic of a crate or the into the tray of a wire crate.  
  • Purchase a couple of 66 quart or larger plastic bins with tight-fitting lids to store kit items.
  • Secure food and water for at least 1 week for each pet
  • For cats: litter box
  • For dogs: plastic poop bags
  • Medicines for at least 2 weeks.
  • Medical records, including the record of vaccination against rabies and other diseases, prescription drugs and medical history.
  • Sturdy leashes or harnesses
  • microchip number
  • Contact information (mobile phone, business phone, home phone) of the owner and close relative or friends.

4. Practice evacuating your pet

  • Train your pets to be on their carriers by making them a comfortable place.
  • Practice transporting your pet by taking it for a ride in a vehicle similar to what you would evacuate. If you don’t have a car, make deals with neighbors, family, and friends. You can also contact your local government for information about transportation options during a disaster.
  • Make note of where your pet may hide when stressed or scared. Practice picking pets up if necessary.
  • For cats, practice taking your cat out of hiding and placing them in a baby carrier, a pillowcase or sturdy box.
  • Have your entire family practice evacuating with the pets so everyone knows what to bring, where to find them, and where to go.

Diseases that can go viral between pets and people during a natural disaster

Natural disasters can attribute to the transmission of some diseases. Exposure to adverse weather conditions, stagnant water, wildlife or unknown animals and overcrowding can put your pet at risk of becoming ill. Some of these diseases can be transmitted between pets and people (also known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses). Some common disaster-related diseases that animals can pass on to people are rabies, leptospirosis, and mosquito, flea, and tick-borne diseases.

• Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system in animals and people. Rabies is transmitted through the bites of angry animals or by contact with their saliva. To protect you and your pet: Report any bite injuries to medical personnel immediately. Practice safe pet handling in a stressful situation. Keep your pet on a carrier or leash and do not allow your pet to interact with other animals.

• Leptospirosis is a disease known as bacterial found in the urine of infected animals that can cause kidney damage and affect other organs. It is transmitted through contact with infected urine or water, contaminated soil, and food. Wash hands after contact with urine. Avoid standing water, especially after flooding after natural disasters. Do not allow pets to play with or drink contaminated water.

• Mosquito, flea and tick-borne diseases: Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are common pests of stray animals and can be a problem immediately after a disaster situation. Their bites irritate the skin and can also spread a variety of diseases (Lyme disease, West Nile virus) that are harmful to people and animals. To help prevent mosquito, flea and tick disease: Keep your pet away from wildlife and stray animals. Talk to your vet about using a regular preventative treatment for fleas, ticks, and parasites for your pet.


After a disaster, familiar aromas and landmarks may have changed. Pets can get confused and lost, so it’s important to keep animals on a leash or in a carrier when transporting or leaving. Some dangers to consider for pets and people are snakes, other wildlife, rivers and streams, especially after flooding and downed power lines. 

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