Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies

If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire, flood, or tornado, depends largely on emergency planning. Some of the things you can do is plan for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.

Preparing your pets for Emergencies Makes Sense. Get Ready Now. 

1. Prepare. Get a Pet Emergency Supply Kit. 

Just as you do with your family’s emergency supply kit, think first about the basics for survival, particularly food and water. Consider two kits. In one, put everything you and your pets will need to stay where you are. In the other- if you and your pets have to get away. Be sure to review your kits regularly to ensure that their contents are fresh (food and medicines).

Food. Keep at least a three day supply of food in an airtight, waterproof container.

Water. Store at least a three day supply of water specifically for your pets in addition to water you need for yourself and your family.

Medicines & Medical Records. Keep an extra supply of medicines your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container.

First Aid Kit. Talk to your Veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs. Most kits should include cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea and tick prevention, latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol, and saline solution.

Collar or Harness with ID Tag and Leash. Your pet should wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification at all times. Include a backup leash, collar and/or harness and ID tag in your pet’s emergency kit. In addition, place copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents, and medical records in a clean plastic bag or waterproof container, and add them to your kit. Make sure you keep your microchip registration information current at all times (phone number). If your pet is not microchipped, talk to your Veterinarian about this permanent form of identification.

Crate or Pet Carrier. If you need to evacuate in an emergency situation, take your pets and animals with you. In many cases, your ability to do so will be aided by having a sturdy, safe, comfortable crate or carrier ready for transportation of your pet. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.

Sanitation. Include pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, poop bags, plastic trash bags and household bleach to provide your pet’s sanitation needs.

Picture of You and Your Pets together.If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics.

Familiar Items. Put favorite toys, treats, or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.


2. Plan. What You Will Do In An Emergency. 

Be prepared to assess the situation. Use whatever you have on hand to take care of yourself and ensure your pet’s safety during an emergency. Remember, if you cannot take care of yourself- you cannot care for your pets! Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. In am emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the internet for instructions. If you’re specifically told to evacuate, shelter-in place or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.

Create a plan to get Away. Plan how you will assemble your pets and anticipate where you will go. If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if practical. If you go to a public shelter, keep in mind your animals may not be allowed inside. Some public shelters have a separate area for pets. For the best results, secure appropriate lodging in advance depending on the number and type of animals in your care. Consider family and friends willing to take in you and your pets in an emergency. Find out before an emergency happens if any facilities in your area might be viable options for you and your pets.

Develop a Buddy System. Plan with neighbors, friends, or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Talk with your pet care buddy about your evacuation plans and show them where you keep your pet’s emergency supply kit. Also designate specific locations, one in your immediate neighborhood and another farther away, where you will meet in an emergency.

Talk to your pet’s Veterinarian. Discuss the types of things that you should include in your pet’s emergency first aid kit. Get the names of Vets or Vet Hospitals in other cities where you might need to seek temporary shelter. You should also consider talking with your Vet about permanent identification such as microchipping, and enrolling your pet in a recovery database. If your pet is microchipped, keeping your emergency contact information up to date and listed with a reliable recovery database is essential to your being reunited with your pet.

Gather Important Contact Information. Make a list of contact information and addresses of area animal control agencies including the Humane Society or SPCA, and emergency Veterinary Hospitals. Keep one copy of these phone numbers with you and one in your pet’s emergency supply kit.


Stay Informed. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an emergency supply kit for yourself, your family and you pets, is the same regardless of the type of emergency. However, it’s important to stay informed about what might happen and know what types of emergencies are likely to affect your region as well as emergency plans that have been established by your state and local government. For more information about how to prepare, visit or call 1-800-BE-READY.

Preparing for your pets make sense. Be Ready Now. 


** This information was developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in consultation with: American Kennel Club, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Humane Society of the United States.