Are you and your dog ready for an emergency? Whether your area is prone to power outages, storms, tornadoes, or flooding, you can ease some of the stress by having a disaster plan and “go bag” assembled for each of your pets. You’re reading this, which is an important first step. Beyond that, here’s what you can do.
Be ready for any emergency with a free Animals Inside alert sticker from the ASPCA. The sticker lets firefighters or emergency personnel know how many animals need rescue in your home. If you have the sticker, write “Evacuated” across it if you leave your home during a disaster.
Next, make sure you’ve got your supplies ready. It’s easier than you think!
Your checklist should cover these points:
- Ways to identify and find your dog, in case you get separated.
- Places your dog can stay, in case you can’t take your dog with you.
- Your dog’s packing list.
Who’s Who? Dog Identification
If you and your dog are separated in an emergency, here’s what you can do to keep them safe and aid a speedy reunion:
- Keep current ID tags and license on your dog at all times.
- Ensure their microchip info is up to date (ask your vet to scan your dog for you).
- Keep a current photo of your dog to pass around if you get separated.
- Keep a photo of you with your dog in case you need to be identified as the owner.
- Make a copy of any important documents and medical records for your dog and seal them in a waterproof pouch or ziplock. Keep a copy with you and add a copy to your dog’s go bag in case you need to shelter separately.
Your Dog’s Packing List
You should be able to pack a lot of these items ahead of time; that way, you’ll be able to leave quickly and with everything you need. Your dog’s bag should be easy for you or your dog to carry.
- Spare collar/harness and leash
- A copy of health records and vaccinations with your vet’s contact info
- Folding crate or carrier
- Packable bed or blanket (think camping-style, like this)
- One-week supply of food and water
- Collapsible bowls
- Spare medication and flea treatment of choice (you may shelter with other dogs)
- Calming items that you know your dog responds to
- Pet first aid kit (available commercially or put together your own)
- Rope or paracord, carabiners, or screw tether
- Run an emergency zipline for your dog to exercise without a fenced area (how-to)
- Emergency leash or collar for other dogs you may encounter
Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, is a member of Rover’s Dog People panel of experts. He says that “the best advice is to bring pets with you if it is at all possible. Most pets are not able to fend for themselves under extreme conditions.” In addition to the packing list above, he advises:
- Put smaller pets in carriers. Carriers should be fully labeled with current contact information that could be used to reunite you should you be separated.
- Larger pets need to be on a leash at all times.
- Do not allow pets to play in or drink standing water, as it is a potential source of disease transmission.
- If you are separated from your pets, contact the local animal shelter (when possible) and provide them with your pet’s description and identification (such as microchip number). Have a photo ready to share.
- Any kind of natural disaster or evacuation is a stressful time for animals as well as humans. Anxious and fearful animals can sometimes be unpredictable and may bite or scratch. Try to limit the number or people or other animals that approach your pet.
- Once things have calmed down and you are able to return home, leave your pets somewhere safe until you know it will be safe for them to return as well.
Dr. Richter explains, “pets will not be allowed into evacuation shelters, usually, although animal shelters are sometimes set up near human shelters. Find the nearest open animal shelter relative to where you will be.”
If you can’t take your dog with you, make a list of places in your area that your dog will be welcome, like friends and family, your Rover sitter, and dog-friendly hotels—and keep in mind they’re not always the same places that’ll shelter you and your family.
Once it’s time to go, these tips will help ensure you all get out safely:
- If you must go, evacuate EARLY. If you wait to be rescued, you most likely won’t be able to bring your animals, and the sound and smells of an emergency situation may make your dog extremely upset and difficult to catch or crate.
- If you’re sheltering at home, choose a protected room, basement, or safe room and keep your emergency gear there.
It all adds up to making sure you and your pet get out safely in case of an emergency. If you get separated along the way, prepare so that you’re much more likely to find each other safe and sound.
Dr. Richter emphasizes, “during a natural disaster, we all must work together and help one another. Please do everything you can to help your pets through this difficult time. Above all, stay safe.”