by Jodi Hartley


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a much greater importance has been placed on disaster and emergency planning for family pets and companion animals. Most of us reading this article would not leave our dogs behind in an emergency situation, but we must be prepared ahead of time to keep our pets safe.

As more of the world experiences nearly every type of weather disaster these days, we have to be prepared to protect and provide for our dogs through tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, flooding, snow and extreme cold. We also need to be concerned about acts of terrorism and household fires, which can be especially disastrous for pets if you aren’t home during the fire.

A number of organizations and governmental agencies provide tips for disaster preparedness. Here is a summary of tips:


  1. Always have some form of identification on your dog in case you are separated. A collar and nametag is good, but having your dog microchipped is the best. Microchips can’t be lost or removed. If your dog is microchipped, make sure the information the microchip company has on file is up to date. Make sure to have contact information for someone who lives away from you listed as well in case your cell phone or local veterinarian phones aren’t working.
  2. Always take your pet with you if you must evacuate. Unfortunately your pet may not be permitted to come with you to a local emergency shelter so learn about your options ahead of time. Ideally you can travel to a friend or relative’s house for shelter. Check to see if your veterinarian, local animal shelter or boarding facility can house pets in times of emergency. Find out if there is a local emergency shelter that allows pets and keep an updated list of hotels outside of your immediate area that are pet-friendly. Make emergency plans with a neighbor or several neighbors who can get your pets or care for them if you aren’t home during a disaster or house fire.
  3. Prepare at least three day’s worth of supplies for caring for your pet. This should include food, water, dishes, medications, veterinary records, can opener for canned food, first aid kit, blanket, recent photo of your pet, secure collar or harness and leash and a carrier if you use one. It’s recommended to keep these supplies together in a waterproof pack you can grab quickly. Be sure to rotate out food and medication as it gets close to expiration.
  4. If you absolutely must leave your pet at home during an evacuation, keep in them in a secure place in your home (never outside and never tethered) with plenty of food and water. Leave your contact information in a visible place on the outside of your home along with information that there is a pet in the house and where he is located.
  5. For disasters or emergencies that require you to stay at home, make sure to bring your pets inside well ahead of any predicted situation. Pets can sometimes sense pending weather emergencies and run away. You’ll want to keep newspaper and cleaning supplies on hand if your pet needs to eliminate indoors. If you are able to go outside before or after a disaster, always take your dog out on a leash. Dogs can become very anxious or scared and act differently than normal. Also, some disasters can result in changes around your home such as downed power lines, high water or roaming animals, snakes, etc.
  6. The ASPCA offers free pet rescue alert stickers for the outside of your home. On the sticker you list the number and types of pets in your home, your contact information and your veterinarian’s contact information. These are helpful for fire and emergency response workers to know if you have pets to be rescued. To order a sticker, visit
  7. Make sure you are prepared. You can only care for your pet if you have your own emergency plan and supplies at the ready. Visit and for more information about being prepared in all aspects of your life.

Article references: Caring for Animals.

ASPCA: Disaster Preparedness.

American Red Cross: Prepare and Plan: Pets.

Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for Club Canine, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an M.B.A.