Evacuating With Pets: Your Pet Emergency Evacuation Plan

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Evacuating With Pets: Your Pet Emergency Evacuation Plan

FEMA Photo, Public Domain

New Orleans, LA 9/8/05 -- Some residents fled so quickly when hurrican Katrina hit that beloved pets wereleft behind on locked porches. Neighbors who did not evacuate have been trying to care for these animals. Photo by: Liz Roll

Evacuation Plan Should
Include Pets, Too

Sarah Gustafson was getting her tires changed on the Santa Barbara side of Santa Ynez Mountains when she noticed a pillar of smoke rising on the other side of the range, near her home.

She immediately panicked, realizing her six beloved cats were trapped at home.

“It was my worst-case scenario,” said Sarah, who works at a veterinary hospital. “I wasn’t home, I wasn’t able to get there and I had to evacuate.”

Once her tires were changed, Sarah navigated around road closures. She eventually made her way over the mountain range, as the fire quickly grew to engulf more than 3,000 acres.

Sarah managed to cram her six cats into her car. She then spent the night in the parking lot of a nearby shelter.

Not an ideal situation.

Sarah was among the nearly 8,000 California residents who were forced to evacuate their homes in the spate of recent wildfires across the state — many of them with pets.

What Would You Do?

What about you? In the event a wildfire should threaten your home, do you have an evacuation plan in place that includes your furry or feathered companions?

The ASPCA recommends these simple steps to ensure pet safety when evacuating during a disaster:

Pet Alert Sticker

Display an emergency pet alert sticker on or near your front door. These stickers are available through the ASPCA and pet supply stores. They’ll let rescue workers know the types and number of pets in your home.

Safe Haven

Arrange for a safe haven for your pets. Not all emergency shelters will accept pets, so it’s important that you identify the ones that do ahead of time. Ask your vet or a local animal shelter to recommend an appropriate facility. Also, identify motels that accept pets. Or ask friends or family if they’d be willing to accommodate your pet in the event of an emergency evacuation.

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Make sure all of your pets wear collars and tags with current identification information. The ASPCA also strongly recommends microchipping for permanent identification.

Evacuation Kit

Store leashes and an emergency evacuation kit close to an exit in your home. The kit should include pet first aid, three to seven days’ worth of pet food, pet medicines and medical records, and bottled water. (For a complete list of emergency evacuation items, click here, to download FEMA’s “Preparedness for Pets” brochure.)

More Pet Evacuation Tips

The ASPCA also offers a free mobile app, explaining exactly what to do when evacuating with pets.

U.S. Customs Photo, Public Domain

In addition, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) recommends the following:

  • Arrange in advance for a neighbor to check on or transport your pets, in the event you are not at home when disaster strikes. Make sure your neighbors have your all of your contact numbers (cell phone, work, home, etc.).
  • When evacuating, each animal should have its own pet carrier. Birds, rodents and reptiles should be transported in cages. Cover cages with a light sheet or cloth to minimize their fear.

New FEMA Act Protects Pets

During Hurricane Katrina, an estimated 44% of the New Orleans residents who refused to evacuate did so because they would not leave their pets behind. Many of them perished alongside their beloved companion animals.

As a result, less than a year later, Congress enacted the Pet Evacuation Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006 in a bipartisan effort. The act authorizes FEMA to rescue, shelter and care for people with pets and service animals.

The following video clip demonstrates why this new legislation was necessary:

The new FEMA law requires that state and local governments factor pets into emergency evacuation plans, and authorize the use of funds for “the procurement, construction, leasing, or renovating of emergency shelter facilities and materials that will accommodate people with pets and service animals.’’

So now, if a wildfire or other natural disaster should require you to evacuate your home, you won’t have to leave anyone behind.

And that’s a good thing.


Featured Image: FEMA Photo by Liz Roll, Public Domain

Los Angeles Times


California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Government Publishing Office