Pet Wise: Be prepared to help your pets when disaster strikes

“Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout’s motto and it is good advice for all pet owners because we should all have emergency plans in the event of a weather or other disaster that requires us to relocate to a safer setting. The thought of relocating your family and pets can be overwhelming. However, with advanced preparation the task can be accomplished.

A Big thank-you to Animal Control Officer (ACO) Dawn Kinna of the Humane Society of Carroll County for providing the information that appears in today’s column. Kinna serves as the Director of Disaster Preparedness at our Humane Society. She has participated in numerous disaster preparedness seminars and has been presenting information about this topic to the public through the Humane Society’s Outreach Programs.

Perhaps you have been lucky to have a pet that has not required emergency care for a serious injury, but an unexpected injury or illness can occur at any time. When health catastrophes occur, expect to pay at least one $2,000 to $4,000 bill over your pet’s lifetime, according to Dr. Louise Murray.

Disasters range from natural to man-made events and could require anything from a short absence from home to a permanent evacuation. These emergencies can even be as severe as the recent Ellicott City floods or Hurricane Katrina.

Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep pets safe so before a disaster occurs start advanced preparation by following the steps listed below:

  • Get your pets microchipped: Pets should be wearing up-to-date identification at all times! This is a permanent ID and may be the only way you can be reunited with your pet if it escapes and becomes lost. When registering the microchip be sure to supply an emergency contact person.
  • Pre- arrange a safe place to take your pets. Never leave them behind! They could become trapped, escape and be exposed to life-threatening hazards.
  • The Humane Society of Carroll County recognizes the importance of sheltering pets during a disaster. If disaster shelters are opened by Carroll, the possibility of pet-friendly shelters will be designated and advertised. Basic supplies will be available to pet owners to help with the housing and maintenance of the pet. It is the owner’s responsibility to provide the daily care for the pet.
  • Contact kennels and boarding facilities inside and outside your immediate area. This may include some veterinary hospitals that could shelter animals in an emergency.
  • Identify and contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if “no pet” policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places including phone numbers and call ahead for a reservation.
  • Ask animal- loving friends, relatives, or others your pets may already know that live outside the disaster-affected area if they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet they may be more comfortable if they are kept together but be prepared for them to be housed separately.
  • Contact local animal shelters if they could provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Please note that animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by disaster. This should be your last resort.
  • Don’t wait until disaster strikes to do your research!

Pet Disaster Supply Kit

Whether you and your pet(s) are away from home for a day or a week, you’ll need essential supplies to be kept in an accessible place and stored in sturdy containers that can be easily carried (duffle bags, covered trash containers, etc.).

You need to assemble a Pet Disaster Supply Kit that should include:

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely to ensure that your animals can’t escape. The crate or carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Take the crate that your pet is usually housed in to feel safer and less stressed.
  • Dry and canned food, portable food and water bowls, cat litter and litter box, manual can opener. Stock up on non-perishables well ahead of time. You should have enough supplies for at least 5 days for each pet.
  • Information regarding feeding schedules, medical conditions, medications to be administered, behavior problems, the name and phone number of your veterinarian in case your pets are fostered or boarded
  • Pet beds, blankets, and toys that are easily transported.
  • Pet First-Aid Kit containing gauze, eye wash, antibiotic cream. Betadine, vet wrap or ace bandage.
  • Water (an average of 1 gallon per day per pet).
  • Flashlight and batteries.
  • Disinfectant, paper towels, “poop bags” to clean up your pet’s waste.
  • A Ziploc bag containing: Contact information to reach family members and friends, pet medications including instructions, a photo of you and your pets, vet records (proof of shot records required at most boarding facilities), a list of local veterinarians and 24-hour emergency care veterinary hospitals; a list of pet-friendly motels and boarding facilities in the area.

Non-traditional pets

Pets other than cats and dogs will need to be evacuated and may have different needs.

  • Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, owners are advised to wrap a blanket over the carrier and. Warm up the car before placing birds inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds’ feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have a photo for identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area and do not let birds out of the cage or carrier.
  • Reptiles: Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but must be transferred to more secure housing when they arrive at the evacuation site. If you have snakes requiring frequent feedings, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as use as a heating pad. When transporting house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.
  • Pocket Pets: Small mammals (rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be transported in secure carriers/cages suitable for maintaining the animals when sheltered. Bring bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.
  • Fish: In most situations fish will need to be sheltered in place, Owners are advised to have “vacation suppressed food” on hand allow owners to leave the fish with a food source for short-term emergencies.

If your pet is lost during a disaster event, contact your local Animal Control agency and surrounding animal control agencies. Remember that stressed or frightened animals behave differently and can travel great distances.


Hopefully you and your pets will never experience a disaster requiring evacuation, however it pays to be proactive so be prepared!

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