Caring for Pets in Times of Disaster

Sacramento, CA ” It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare: a wildfire breaks out and in the panic and confusion, you can’t locate and rescue your animal. Each year, hundreds of pets are lost during natural disasters, and many more are never reunited with their owners due to the ensuing chaos and a lack of proper identification. Whether you own a horse or a house pet, having an emergency plan for their care is essential in case of a fire, flood, earthquake, hazardous spill or other disaster.

Particularly during the summer fire season, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) urges all pet owners to be prepared and plan ahead.

“No one wants to be worried about their pets during a natural disaster or emergency. The best insurance that your pet—and you—will be safe is to have an emergency plan in place and ready to go,” said Peter Weinstein, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association.

Here are the CVMA’s tips to ensure your pets are safely cared for during an emergency.

For dogs, cats and other small pets:4 If you evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind. You may be forced to stay away longer than you anticipate, leaving your animals defenseless.

  • For health reasons, most emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Ask your veterinarian or local animal shelter if they provide emergency care for animals during a disaster. Find out ahead of time which motels and hotels in your area allow pets.
  • Be sure your pets are properly identified, ideally with both microchips and identification tags. A microchip under the skin can be “”read”” by a universal scanner, and the pet can be traced to its owners. Identification tags should include your phone number and be securely fastened to your pet’s collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site, whether it’s a public shelter or a friend’s home.
  • Assemble an emergency kit in a waterproof bag. Include pet food, bottled water, medications, vaccination records and a current photo of your pet. Also include your veterinarian’s phone number in case you need immediate medical advice.
  • Have a pet carrier and leash readily accessible in the event of evacuation.
  • If you have no other choice but to leave your pets at home, keep your dogs and cats inside in separate rooms, preferably without a window, such as a garage, bathroom or utility room that can be easily cleaned. Leave enough food and water to last at least 48 hours. Post a notice advising what pets are inside the house and your evacuation site/phone number, so rescue workers can contact you.

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