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Thanks to modern weather forecasting technology, we are rarely surprised by natural disasters such as flash floods, hurricanes or blizzards. Other natural disasters, such as forest fires, and man-made problems, such as gas explosions and leaking tank cars, arrive with little, if any, warning. By developing a disaster action plan for yourselves and your pets, you can improve the chances that all of you have to make it through a disaster safely.

Advance Planning is Essential

Make sure you know your options before a disaster strikes. If you need help, contact your county emergency management coordinator or your veterinarian.

  • If your pet is on a special diet and/or medication, ask your veterinarian for disaster planning assistance.
  • Survey your home and determine the best place for your pets during a disaster that doesn't require evacuation. A utility room, bathroom, kitchen, or other tiled area that can be cleaned easily and is away from windows is best.
  • Unfortunately, emergency public shelters CANNOT allow pets to enter for perceived public health and safety reasons. If you plan to use an emergency public shelter, you MUST make other arrangements for your pet's protection and safety.

Steps you can take include:

asking a dependable friend or relative who lives some distance away if you and your pets can stay with them during an emergency;

finding motels some distance from your area to which you and your pets can go in the event of an evacuation. Be sure to ask if there are any restrictions on size and number of pets allowed; and
familiarizing yourself with boarding kennels in your area. Know where they are, who stays on the premises with the animals in the event of a disaster and what provisions would be made if the kennel should have to evacuate during a disaster.

Get a pet carrier, portable kennel or crate for each house pet in case you must travel. These carriers should be large enough for the pet to stand up and turn around in. Get your pet used to the kennel or carrier ahead of time.

Be sure your pet ALWAYS wears a properly fitted collar with current license and rabies tags. ID tags should include your home phone number as well as the number of a contact outside the affected region.

Keep a leash handy and get your pet used to it.

Be sure your pet's vaccinations are up-to-date, especially if you expect to board your pet during a disaster, and keep the documentation together in a clearly marked package. Most boarding facilities will require proof of current rabies, distemper/parvo, and respiratory complex vaccinations.

Prepare a disaster traveling kit for your pet in case you must leave the area with your pet. It should include:

Pet license or ID and rabies tags;

Proper size steel or fiberglass crate;

Leashes and obedience aids;

Non-spill water and food bowls;

Motion sickness pills prescribed by your veterinarian if your pet needs them;

Water in sanitized non-breakable containers;

Dried or packaged semi moist foods;

Special medications; and

Newspapers and/or paper towels.

Buy ample quantities of pet food and kitty litter when you buy your own disaster supplies.

Keep a supply of newspapers, plastic bags, cleansers and disinfectants on hand to properly handle pet waste.

When Disaster Strikes

If you must leave your pets at home when you evacuate, take these precautions:

Bring your pet indoors as much in advance of the disaster as you can. NEVER leave your pet outside or tied up during a hurricane.

Leave your pets inside the house in an area away from windows.

Never leave a cat in direct contact with a dog even if the two are normally friendly. Confine small pets such as birds or hamsters, away from cats and dogs.

Leave out only dry pet foods in sturdy containers. The food should be relatively unpalatable so the animals won't overeat. Do not leave any treats, vitamins or mineral supplements.

Use special food dispensers if you must leave birds behind. Birds must eat daily to survive.

Leave water for pets in sturdy non-spill containers or in the bathtub if it will be accessible to your pets.

Make sure your pet can get off the floor and onto a counter top or other high area, in case flooding occurs.

Leave difficult or dangerous animals in special crates or cages on top of counters to minimize their chance of escape.

Getting Back to Normal

Once the all-clear has sounded and you and your pets return to your home, be CAREFUL about allowing your pets outdoors unattended and off-leash.

The disaster may have altered familiar scents and landmarks and your pet could easily get confused and become lost.

In addition, downed electric lines, fallen trees and other debris, and contaminated water could present real dangers to your pet.


Prepared by the NJ Animal Emergency Preparedness & Response Committee: NJ Department of Agriculture; NJ Department of Law & Public Safety, Division of State Police, Office of Emergency Management; NJ Veterinary Medical Association.