WILD- Lesson 2-Disaster Planning/Preparedness

Disaster Planning for Pets

What is Disaster Preparedness?

This is the process of ensuring that an owner and/or animal business has preventive measures in place so that they are in a state of readiness to contain the effects of a forecasted disastrous event to minimize loss of life, injury, and damage to property. Being prepared means that you can provide rescue, relief, rehabilitation, and other services in the aftermath of a disaster, and have the capability and resources to continue to sustain its essential functions without being overwhelmed by the demand placed on them. Preparedness for the first and immediate response is called emergency preparedness.

What is Disaster Response?

Disaster response is the second phase of the disaster management cycle. It consists of several elements such as warning/evacuation, search and rescue, providing immediate assistance, and assessing damage. The aim of emergency response is to provide immediate assistance to maintain life, improve health and support the morale of the affected population. Such assistance may range from providing specific but limited aid, transport from harm, temporary shelter, and food. Knowing how to prepare for and manage an emergency that involves pets is vital. Having an appropriate plan is one of the best things you can do in terms of protecting your beloved pets in a disaster. The four phases of emergency management will give recommendations for mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from all types of disasters.

What are some things that can be done at home or at the business to help prevent hazards during a disaster?

  • Build and repair buildings
  • Replace or cover glass windows with materials that will not shatter and injure animals and/or people
  • Avoid accumulating piles of trash that can spill over and injure animals and/or people
  • Store chemicals in storm proof buildings or containers and make them secure
  • Do not leave construction material unsecured. High winds may cause such items to become projectile
  • Drain or build levees around ponds that could flood

The priorities for disaster planning will vary to some extent with the type of animals and facility. In general terms, the greatest priorities, i.e., the most likely disasters to occur, are trailer accidents, floods, fires, power outages and contagious disease outbreaks. Some locations will have additional hazards to consider, such as high winds, landslides, and hazardous materials. Owners should consult their local emergency management office on what type of help is available and where to get it.

Many disasters also have distant effects on animals; debris many miles from a tornado touchdown and mold following a flood can be a serious problem. If you are concerned about diseases that may result from a disaster you should consult your veterinarian.

During floods, following tornadoes and earthquakes, hazardous materials can be knocked over and contaminate the environment and animals. Untrained persons should not deal with hazardous materials at all. If you are concerned about a hazardous materials release, phone 911.

Before assessing an animal, check the scene for moving traffic, power lines that are down and materials that can become explosive. These are just some examples of scenes you do not want to approach and will want to immediately call 911.


Every pet owner should have alternative accommodations planned for their animals in the event of a disaster and contacts should be confirmed at least once per year. Become familiar with resources such as managers of fairgrounds, racetracks, etc. that may be consulted when identifying facilities that may be available. Be sure when selecting facilities to choose those that will not likely be affected by the same disasters you are planning for.

Evacuations can present unique problems. Appropriate planning is essential. Evacuations are best coordinated with neighbors, friends, local animal groups, clubs, and county extension educators. Both the destination and the method of transport need to be sorted out well in advance of any need. It is important to contact your town to find out if there are any evacuation routes predetermined in your area.

Have a plan in place as it is vital that you take your pet with you when you evacuate. Your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans. Share your evacuation plans with friends and neighbors. Post detailed instructions in several places to ensure emergency workers can see them in case you are not able to evacuate your pets yourself.

It is extremely helpful is to put together a pet evacuation and disaster kit. The items can be put into any store bought, easy to carry, waterproof container.

Below are some recommended items for your kit:

  • Food and Medicine
  • 3-7 days’ worth of dry and canned food
  • 7 days’ supply of water
  • Feeding and water dish
  • First aid kit
  • Litter for cats
  • Newspaper
  • Household cleaner (not phenol based which is toxic to cats)
  • Important documents as discussed in the pet first aid kit section
  • Emergency contact list (see template at end of book)
  • Photo of your pet preferably with you in case you get separated
  • Crate or carrier
  • Extra collar and leash
  • ID tags on pet
  • Flashlight
  • Muzzle/gauze
  • Toys and treats
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