Be Prepared: Pet Safety in Emergencies

Key points

  • Pet owners should understand how to protect their pet before, during, and after an emergency.
  • After an emergency, familiar scents and landmarks may change causing pets to become confused and lost.
  • Make a plan and create an emergency kit for your pet in case of an emergency.
Dogs in a crate in the back of a packed SUV


Emergencies come in many forms: fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, violent storms, and even terrorism.

Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can put pets, pet owners, and first responders in danger. Pets left behind during a disaster are likely to be injured or lost. This can happen even if you try to create a safe place for them.

Be prepared: make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pet.

Steps to take before an emergency

A dog buckled into a car
Prepare pets for emergencies just like other family members.

To get started, familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that could affect your area. Consider your options for providing care for your pet(s). Disasters can happen without warning, so be prepared.

Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.

Microchip your pet(s). This is one of the best ways to ensure you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer. Keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.

Keep a leash and/or carrier near the exit. Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, and pet seatbelts).

Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit so evacuation will go smoothly for your entire family. Ask your veterinarian for help in putting together your pet's veterinary records.

Find Pet-Friendly Hotels‎

For information on pet-friendly hotels, visit (or call 877-411-FIDO); (or call 888-281-5170); (or call 866-966-3046);; and

Make a plan

Plan where you and your pet will stay in case you need to evacuate your home. Pets may not be allowed in local shelters, unless they are service animals. Many disaster evacuation centers (such as Red Cross evacuation centers) do not accept pets and other animals. Identify shelters or out-of-town friends or relatives where your pets and other animals can stay.

Locate boarding facilities or animal hospitals near your evacuation shelter in the case you are unable to return home right away.

Create a buddy system in case you're not home during an emergency. Ask a trusted neighbor who can check on your animals and can evacuate your animals if necessary.

Find a veterinarian or animal hospital in the area where you may be seeking temporary shelter. Add the veterinarian's contact information to your emergency kit.

Create an emergency kit for your pet

Prepare an emergency kit for your pet ahead of time with supplies, records, and contact information.

Remember to write your pet's name, your name, and your contact information on each pet carrier. Include your cell, work, and home phone numbers.

Include record of vaccination for rabies and other diseases, prescription medications, and medical history in your pet's medical records.

Build your pet's disaster kit‎

Learn what to include in a kit for your pet and build one ahead of time.

Practice evacuating your pet

Train your pet to get in and stay in their carrier by making it a comfortable place.

Practice transporting your pet by taking them for rides in a car similar to one you would be evacuating in. Make arrangements with neighbors, family, and friends if you do not have a car. You can also contact your local government to learn about transportation options during a disaster.

Know where your pet might hide when stressed or scared. Practice catching your pet, if needed.

For cats, you can practice removing your cat from its hiding spot. Use your cat's carrier, a pillowcase, a sturdy box, or anything to get your cat quickly out of harm's way.

Have your entire family practice evacuating with your pets. This way everyone knows what to take, where to find the pets, and where to meet.

What to do in an emergency

Sheltering during an evacuation

During a disaster, what is good for you is good for your pet. If you leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured, or worse. Never leave a pet chained outdoors.

Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets. Visit the Humane Society to find a shelter in your area. If accommodations are needed for your pet(s), contact:

  • Local veterinary clinics and boarding facilities
  • Local animal shelters
  • Family or friends outside the evacuation area
  • Pet-friendly hotels, particularly along evacuation routes

Remember to take your pet's emergency kit with you.

Evacuation centers‎

Learn what to expect if you take your pet to an evacuation center.

Sheltering in place

When sheltering at home with your pet, make sure the room chosen is pet friendly. Select a safe room, preferably an interior room with no (or few) windows. Remove any toxic chemicals or plants. Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck in (such as vents or beneath heavy furniture).

Diseases that can spread between pets and people during a natural disaster

Flooded area after disaster
Flooded areas can put people and pets at risk for disease.

Natural disasters can contribute to the spread of some diseases. Your pet can be put at risk for getting sick if exposed to:

  • Bad weather conditions
  • Stagnant water
  • Wildlife or unfamiliar animals
  • Overcrowding in shelters

Some of these illnesses can be spread between pets and people (also known as zoonotic diseases). Common disaster-related diseases that pets can pass to people include:

  • Rabies
  • Leptospirosis
  • Diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks


Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system in both animals and people. Rabies is transmitted through bites from rabid animals or through contact with their saliva.

To protect you and your pet:

  • Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately.
  • Practice safe handling of pets in a stressful situation.
  • Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash.
  • Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in the urine of infected animals. It can cause kidney damage and affect other organs. Leptospirosis is transmitted through contact with infected urine or contaminated water, soil, and food.

To protect you and your pet:

  • Wash your hands after coming in contact with urine.
  • Avoid stagnant water, especially after natural disasters flooding.
  • Don't allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water.

Diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks

Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are common pests of stray animals and can be a problem immediately after a disaster. Their bites irritate the skin and can also spread a variety of diseases harmful to both people and animals. These include Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

To help prevent illnesses associated with mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks:

  • Keep your pet away from wildlife and stray animals.
  • Provide your pet with regular preventative care.

Talk to your pet's veterinarian about regular treatment for fleas, ticks, and parasites prevention.

How to keep yourself and your pets healthy during a disaster

Wash your hands after handling your pet, its food, or its waste (poop and pee). Do not let your pet lick your face or hands.

Keep your pet up to date on all vaccinations and heartworm, flea, and tick medicine.

Practice safe handling of your pet because your pet may behave differently during a stressful situation. Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash.

Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals, especially wildlife and stray animals. Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately.

Properly clean and disinfect cages and litterboxes. Wash your pet's bedding regularly.

Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters. Don't allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water.

Emergency contacts

Emergency contacts‎

If you need information quickly in an emergency, contact local animal shelters, government agencies, and relief organizations.

Local animal shelters

Search for local shelters and rescue groups on Petfinder's Shelter Center. Local animal shelters may be able to offer advice during emergency situations. This includes what to do with your pets if you are asked to evacuate your home.

Local government agencies

Local government animal control or service agencies can provide guidance on how to protect your pets in an emergency.

Relief organizations

RedRover can shelter and care for animals displaced by natural disasters and other crises in the United States and Canada. If you need sheltering assistance, please call RedRover at (800) 440-3277 or visit

After an emergency

After an emergency, familiar scents and landmarks may have changed. Pets can become confused and lost. It's important to keep pets on leash or in a carrier when they're being transported or when you go outside.

After an emergency, especially flooding, snakes and other wildlife and downed power lines can be hazards for pets and people.

Returning home

Check your home for sharp objects, spilled chemicals, and exposed wiring to protect your family and your pets from injury.

The behavior of animals may change dramatically after a flood, flash flood, thunderstorm, or hurricane. Normally quiet and friendly animals may become irritable. Monitor animals closely and only release them in a safe and secure environment.

Contact a veterinarian if you notice any signs of stress, discomfort, or illness in your pets.

Finding a lost pet

Make sure that your family is in a safe location before you begin your search.

If you are in a shelter that houses pets, inform one of the pet caretakers. Give the pet caretaker a missing pet flyer. You can also post missing pet flyers in the area once conditions are safe.

Many shelters and organizations will house pets lost during disasters. The following groups can find local shelters or organizations that may have located your lost pet:

  • Local humane society
  • Animal welfare organization
  • County or state animal response team
  • Local animal control

If your pet has a microchip, call the microchip company to let them know your pet is missing. Make sure all the information about your pet is updated and current.

Pet first aid

Emergency treatment and first aid for pets should never be used as a substitute for veterinary care. However, it may save your pet's life before you can get your pet to a veterinarian.

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers specific advice for basic first aid in the case of the following:

  • Poisoning
  • Seizures
  • Fractures
  • External and internal bleeding
  • Burns
  • Choking
  • Heatstroke

They can also offer advice on what to do if your pet has no heartbeat or is not breathing.

Tips for handling injured pets

Even the gentlest pet can bite or scratch if injured. Pain and fear can make animals unpredictable or even dangerous. Don't attempt to hug an injured pet, and always keep your face away from its mouth. Hugging an injured pet might scare the animal more or cause them pain.

Perform any contact with your pet slowly and gently. Stop if your animal becomes more agitated or stressed. Try to get your pet to a veterinarian as quickly as possible without risking injury or illness to yourself or others.



American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

AMVA offers a variety of information to assist veterinarians, animal owners, and others interested in the well-being of animals. These resources can help prepare for animal safety in the event of a disaster.


RedRover Responders is a volunteer-driven organization. RedRover shelters and cares for animals displaced by natural disasters and other crises in the United States and Canada.

If you need sheltering assistance, call RedRover at (800) 440-3277.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA is the federal agency that leads the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards. FEMA effectively manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA has resources for preparing pets for disasters.

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society has disaster preparedness resources for pets and other animals like feral or outdoor cats, horses, and farm animals.