Do You Have a Pet Disaster Kit and a Plan?

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. It’s also peak hurricane season here in New Orleans and it is time to plan for what to do in case you as a pet owner need to evacuate from your home. Creating a pet disaster kit and having a plan ahead of time will help things run as smoothly as possible in the event of an emergency.

The most important thing you can do is put together a disaster kit for your pets. It should contain bowls, toys, leashes, and bedding, as well as a week’s supply of food and water. It should also have first aid supplies and any medication that your pets may need. Pictures of your pets and written care instructions ensure that they will be properly cared for even if you are indisposed. Keep this near your crate or carrier so that it is easy to evacuate as soon as possible in the event of an emergency situation. Check out what the Humane Society recommends for a pet disaster kit.

You also need to arrange a safe haven for your pets in case you need to temporarily relocate. Never leave animals behind in an emergency situation. They may become trapped, lost, or injured. Research locations that can take your pets in for you. Many Red Cross and emergency shelters do not allow pets. Contact local veterinary clinics and boarding facilities to find out what their emergency accommodations are when an evacuation is ordered. Metairie Small Animal Hospital recommends all pets be microchipped; this makes reuniting them with their owners much easier if they get separated. Look up pet-friendly hotels outside of hurricane distance. It can be hard to know what route a storm will take, so come up with options in a few different locations.

It is important to have a caregiver who can help you care for your pets during an emergency. Find a person who will be able to go to your home and check on your pets in case you are not there when disaster strikes. A trusted neighbor is a good choice; you can trade off duties depending upon your schedules. Your caregiver should have access to your home so they can get to your pets as well as your pet disaster kit. Negotiate what responsibilities are expected of the caregiver ahead of time. Would you expect this person to transport your pets to you? Would you want them to care for them temporarily until you can return home, or perhaps take them to a boarding facility? Solidifying these expectations upfront ensures that everyone is on the same page and that your pets will be appropriately cared for.

Now that you know who is going to help care for your pets, what other preparations need to be made? It is always best to assume that if you have to evacuate from your home, you may not be able to return for several weeks. Be prepared to follow the instructions from state and local authorities regarding your return home. Store your pet disaster kit and leashes/carriers as close to the main exit of your home as possible. Practice getting cats into carriers on a regular basis. A supply of fresh water is very important in case of power outages. Identification is also vital. Pets should wear collars with tags that include your name and telephone number. Microchipping is a good form of permanent identification, but it’s crucial that you update your contact information with the microchip registry.

What else might you need?

  • Medical History/DocumentationCurrent vaccination records are necessary to board pets. Keep a list of any known medical conditions and medications that your pets currently take. Using our Pet Portals system, you can access all of your pet’s medical records from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Medications It is good to have an emergency supply of regular medications that your pet takes. You may not be able to get prescriptions filled immediately when needing to evacuate.
  • Pet Supplies and FoodBring a sufficient supply of your pet’s food, especially if it is a prescription diet. Collapsible bowls make providing food and water easier while on the go. Bringing comfort items like bedding, treats, and toys may help keep the overall experience less stressful for your pets.

To access MSAH’s pet disaster kit checklist, click here.