I confess – PPP is not a real acronym, but pet disaster preparedness is a real issue. People put not only themselves, but others in danger just to protect their furry friends. Unwillingness to abandon pets is the most common reason for refusing evacuation. I freely confess that worries about providing for a Great Dane and two cats in a disaster stress me out.

PETS for Pets

After a disaster, pet stories fill the news, even overshadowing human stories, and prompt outpourings of assistance and donations. Does anyone remember Snowball? In Hurricane Katrina, during transportation of a small boy from the Superdome to Houston, a police officer refused to let him bring his white dog on the bus. Captured on the news, the boy cried until he vomited. He was never reunited with his dog. Our government passed the PETS Act (a real acronym for Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) in response to Snowball and over 250,000 animals stranded by Hurricane Katrina.

Stray dogs in Katrina are gathered by the humane society. Photo by FEMA/Jocelyn Augustino.

PETS requires that state and local emergency preparedness plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency. It has been partly effective, as New York shelters in Hurricane Sandy took pets, something unheard of a few years ago. Despite this, most official websites still state that pets will not be allowed in shelters because of health concerns, and checking the “Hurricane Sandy Lost and Found Pets” Facebook page  (http://www.facebook.com/SandysPets), will still break your heart from pictures and postings of lost pets.

Take Care Of Your Own

The reality is that, just like other areas of emergency preparedness, you must prepare to take care of your own. If you leave Fido behind in a disaster, he may die from lack of care, yet if you bring him with you, there are profound logistical issues. Even if you find a pet-friendly shelter, they may only take healthy animals in crates, with vaccination records and owners able to care for them in the shelter. So how do you plan for Fido?

Pet Preparedness Tips 1 – 5

  1. Let emergency responders know about pets. Get a free Rescue Alert Sticker from the ASPCA (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/disaster-preparedness/), or buy one at the pet store.  Put it in a window near your front door with the number and types of pets. If you evacuate with pets, write “Evacuated” on the sticker before you leave so that rescuers don’t waste time looking for a pet that is no longer there. If you absolutely must leave pets behind, put a sign on your door, and hope a rescue worker with a soft heart comes by.  If you have a neighborhood emergency plan, INCLUDE PETS!
  2. Put pets on your emergency wallet card or phone so someone checks on them if you are can’t (particularly important if only one or two people live together). Imagine being hospitalized and unable to communicate after an accident, and your pets starving because no one knows they are home alone!
  3. Pet identification. Pets get easily lost or separated from owners in a disaster. Microchip your pet if possible, as lost pets are routinely checked for microchips. Microchip cost is usually about 40-60$ when done by a vet, but local shelters may provide this less expensively. Give Fido and Fluffy old-fashioned tags with emergency contact information as well (local and out of area), but use safe breakaway cat collars.
  4. Always have a current photo of you and your pet together. You can use it to post a picture if Fido or Fluffy are lost, but more importantly, it also proves that Fluffy is yours. Unfortunately, cases exist where foster families for pets lost in an emergency later refused to release the pet back to owners. Give a copy of the picture to your out-of-town emergency contact (even though they are probably sick of you by now).
  5. In any disaster, crate or confine your animals inside to decrease stress and risk of escape. Bring them with you if you leave – remember you may not get back very quickly! But if there is no choice but to leave Fido and Fluffy behind, confine them in an interior room with food and water for at least three days (and remember cats and dogs make poor roommates).

    Oly makes sure he’s not left behind in evacuation. Photo by Sheila Sund.

A Helpful Resource:

Expect many pet posts from me, because this is such a concern. Can’t wait? There are so many websites on this subject, I couldn’t list them all. However, I particularly like http://www.co.wayne.ny.us/departments/emermgt/AnimalsInDisaster.pdf  It doesn’t have cute pictures and pretty graphics, but it has a large amount of helpful information.  Fido and Fluffy will be grateful.

Stay safe,


  1. Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for posting this and the links! I’v printed out the id/info pamphlet to include in my dogs’ crates (2 of them at 75+ lbs each), and will be revising the “go bag” I already have for them 🙂
    Lisa in AZ

    • disasterdoc says:

      Keep an eye on the blog. I have lots more information on pet preparedness – just need to space it out with other interesting emergency things. I went to a 5 day resilience conference last month, and they had over a day’s worth of pet sessions! I would love to hear from someone who has actually evacuated their pets. It all sounds so good in print, but I worry how it will work in practice, particularly for those of us with big dogs or multiple pets.

  2. […] is number 2 in my promised series of pet emergency preparedness posts. If you are new to my blog, PPP – Puss and Pooch Preparedness #1 was on November 16, […]

  3. Hello, I didn’t see the link to the “id/info pamphlet to include in my dogs’ crates” that your first commenter (Lisa) mentioned. Could you let me know the link?

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