Pets in Disaster

In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the best way to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Sometimes there is no way to tell how long the evacuation may last, as people found out along the coast after Hurricane Fran and Floyd. If the situation is too dangerous for you and your family to remain in your home, then it is too dangerous for your pets to be left behind!

Most American Red Cross shelters do not permit pets. Service animals, such as seeing eye dogs, ARE permitted in Red Cross shelters. Kennels and local animal shelters may not be operational or may be full. Three American Red Cross shelters in Forsyth County have been designated as "Pet Friendly" shelters where pets and their owners may reside in the same building–but not the same room. These may not be open for each disaster; therefore, you should make arrangements for your pet(s) before disaster strikes.

Watch a video about preparing for emergency if you have pets 


HAVE A SAFE PLACE TO TAKE YOUR PET: The first step in being prepared to evacuate your pets is to have a safe place to take them. Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask if "no pet" policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers. Ask friends, relatives, or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter your pets in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.

ASSEMBLE A PORTABLE PET DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT: The second step is to assemble pet disaster supplies to be used in the event of an evacuation:

  • Collar with an ID tag
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers (essential for cats) to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals cannot escape. Ensure that each carrier is marked with your name, phone #, and address.
  • Food & water bowls
  • Supply of pet food and water in plastic bottles - 3 day supply
  • Litter and litter box for cats
  • Medications and medical records showing vaccination history
  • First-aid kit
  • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost
  • Instructions for feeding schedules and diet, medications, and any special needs

KNOW WHAT TO DO AS A DISASTER APPROACHES: Often, severe weather watches are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet:

  • Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
  • Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment's notice
  • Bring all pets into the house so that you will not have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
  • Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area.

Remember that animals--even our sweet pets--react differently under stress. Keep animals securely leashed or in carriers for their protection and yours.


  • Make sure each pet is wearing a collar with an ID tag.
  • Confine your pets in a room, such as a bathroom, that does not have windows but does have ventilation. Leave familiar toys and bedding. Never turn pets loose to fend for themselves or leave a dog tied outside.
  • Provide pets with plenty of water--when under stress an animal can drink several gallons a day (fill buckets or a bathtub)--and a large supply of dry food (wet food spoils quickly).
  • Leave dogs together only if they are compatible and of similar size. Always separate dogs from cats; even the friendliest of pets can become enemies during times of stress.
  • Post a notice on the front door stating that pets are inside, telling where they can be located, and requesting the reader to notify Animal Control or Emergency Management. Provide a telephone number where you can be reached.

These steps should help you provide for your pet(s) in the event of a disaster but REMEMBER: IF POSSIBLE, TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU!

And, when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routine. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

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