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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Taking Care of Pets During a Disaster or Emergency

FDA Veterinarian Newsletter July/August 2005 Volume XX, No IV

To be sure you can properly take care of your pet during an emergency, like Hurricane Katrina, or during an evacuation, you must plan ahead.

If you have to leave your home, take your pet with you if at all possible. You are the best person to take care of your pet. Also, as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) pointed out in a brochure it issued about preparing for a disaster, if the situation is dangerous for people, it is dangerous for animals, too.

But, before you leave, know where you can take your pet. Find out which motels or hotels are “pet friendly,” or which ones will accept pets in an emergency. Or plan to go to the house of a friend or relative who will permit you to bring your pet.

Before you have to travel, get your pet used to a crate. Familiar surroundings might help easy a pet’s anxiety. And getting an animal into a crate for travel will be easier once the animal is used to it.

Take pet food, medicines, vaccination records, and information about pet insurance if your have a policy. Assemble all of this into a disaster kit that you can grab as you leave.

Relying on a neighbor

If you get trapped away from your home due to a disaster or other emergency, your pet will be better off if you have already made arrangements with your neighbor or nearby friend to take care of the animal.

The temporary caretaker should have phone numbers to reach you (a cell phone number may be the best), and all the instruction necessary to properly care for the animal. Those instructions should include a signed authorization for veterinary care, and financial limits to the veterinary care.


Emergencies can make pets display unexpected or uncharacteristic behaviors. Well-behaved animals may become aggressive and defensive after a major disruption in their lives. The animal may not return to more typical behavior for several weeks. Be careful releasing an animal after an emergency, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Make sure it cannot escape. Do not release the animal outside until you know the area is safe, AVMA said.

Allow your pet plenty of time to rest and get used to new surroundings. Provide familiar toys, if -pos-sible.

AVMA has prepared an extensive guide to preparing for emergencies, both for pet owners and livestock owners. It is available on AVMA’s website, at www.avma.org/disaster. Download a copy of “Saving the Whole -Family.”

The guide has checklists and helpful tips on preparing for disasters, and it explains the steps you should take once the warning has been sounded.

It has information about taking care of all types of pets, including birds and snakes. It also has information about preparing livestock.