Pet Disaster Plan

The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets. Being prepared can save their lives.

If you must evacuate, make sure you find a safe shelter for your pets. If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for them. Pets left behind can become injured, lost, or ill. So, prepare now for the day when you and your pet may have to leave your home.

Have a Safe Place to Take Your Pets

Many public disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety regulations and other considerations. The only animals allowed in some shelters are service animals that assist people with disabilities. Research your sheltering options before a disaster strikes. Work with your local emergency management and humane organizations to develop sheltering alternatives for people with pets.

  • Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets.
  • Virginia Pet Friendly Hotels and Motels
  • Ask friends, relatives, or others outside your area whether they could shelter your animals in an emergency.
  • Prepare a list of animal shelters, boarding facilities, and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency.

Know What To Do As a Disaster Approaches

  • Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
  • Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment's notice.
  • Bring all pets into the house so you won't have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
  • Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and up-to-date identification tags.

If You Shelter in Place ("Stay Put")

  • Identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together, including your pets.
  • Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers. 
  • Be sure they are wearing identification tags.
  • Have medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers.

In Case You're Not Home

Make arrangements in advance for a trusted neighbor to take your pets and meet you at a predetermined location. Make sure that the person is comfortable around your pets, knows where they are likely to be, knows where your disaster supplies are kept and has a key to your home. If you use a pet-sitting service, it may be able to help, but discuss this possibility well in advance.

After a Disaster

Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home - often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.

If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be reclaimed. Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.

Get your pets back into their normal routines as soon as possible. After a disaster, animals can become aggressive or defensive - monitor their behavior. If these problems persist or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.