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Emergency Preparedness for Pets

 This month’s Pet Health Topic shares potential life-saving information for your pet. MVMA is collaborating with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to educate pet owners about emergency preparedness for their pets.

When we see large-scale disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis on television, we tend to think they won’t occur where we live. In doing so, we risk becoming complacent about the need to be prepared for smaller, more common emergencies that involve our pets. Snowstorms, windstorms, heavy rains, fire, and toxic exposures such as gas leaks may result in loss of power, heat, or water sources, or cause structural damage that may force us to leave our homes for hours or days.


Preparing for such a situation ahead of time is the best way to safeguard our pets.


Emergency Kit


Each pet should have its own emergency evacuation or survival kit. You can consolidate all your pets’ items into one waterproof, easy-to-carry container. Keep a flashlight, spare batteries, and a radio in the container for your own use. Here are ideas of paperwork to include:


ü      a copy of vaccination dates

ü      a listing of medical and health issues

ü      medication doses and frequencies

ü      feeding schedules

ü      ownership papers

ü      the telephone list (discussed below)


If medications for a particular pet need refrigeration (for instance, insulin for diabetics), you may want to list where they are being kept. Your veterinarian can help you with this if your pet has complex issues. Consider putting the papers in a plastic zipper bag or other waterproof envelope.


The general guidelines is to keep enough food and medicine for each pet for 3 to 5 days in the kit. You can rotate the items in and out as they near their expiration date to avoid wasting them. Keep enough bottled water for yourself and your pets for at least 3 to 5 days.


You may want to put in a few items that make your pet feel comfortable, such as treats, a blanket, a chew toy, etc. Put in a hand-operated can opener and some trash bags. You should consider whether a stake and tie-out for your pet would be appropriate as well.


If your dog is very nervous around other dogs you may want to consider some type of humane muzzle in case you have to go to a shelter area with other people and pets.


Notice to Rescuers & Safe Transportation


To help rescuers, pre-place stickers or signs in your windows or doors listing the pets inside your house. In the case of confined pets such as fish, birds, gerbils etc , list the location of these pets in the house. You should also list the location of carriers and leashes for your cats and dogs. The most easily accessible carriers for rescuers are those that open from the top as well as in front so frightened pets can be set into the carrier rather than pushed in. Simple slip neck leashes work well for dogs as they may be frightened and need to be looped rather than clipped on their collar. In lieu of carriers, you can keep a supply of laundry bags in one location. These also work well on small reptiles. We strongly recommend one cat per carrier because this may ultimately be temporary housing for them.


Identification & Contact Information


Having an ID on your pets including rabies and license tags will help reunite you with your animals if you are separated. Indoor pets should have some form of identification on them, too. A collar with a tag that holds a small sheet of paper for more detailed pet information is good. Providing a second telephone number on your pet’s tag can be important because your home phone may be unavailable. Some people put their veterinarian’s telephone number on the tag, or the phone number of a relative or friend who that lives some distance from your house and would be unlikely to be affected by the same disaster or emergency.


Having a tattoo applied or a microchip inserted by simple injection by your veterinarian provides a more permanent method of identification. It allows the rescuer access to a national registry of pet identification with detailed pet information about your dog or cat—and this information can be constantly updated by you as the need arises.


Telephone List


Prepare a list of important telephone numbers before a disaster or emergency strikes, so that you will have quick access if and when you need them. Keep a copy in your animal evacuation kit, another near your phone, and provide one for a friend or relative living 30 or more miles from your home. We suggest you list include phone numbers for:


  1. You, including home, cell, work, and pager, as applicable
  2. A local contact person in case you are not available
  3. A contact person who is out of state in case there is a large-scale disaster affecting your general area
  4. Your veterinarian
  5. A boarding facility or alternate veterinarian with whom you have been in contact for emergency support, if applicable
  6. MVMA (508-460-9333), for animal help information and phone numbers
  7. Local police and fire departments or emergency services
  8. Your town’s animal control department or dog officer
  9. Your town’s Board of Health

You may also want to include MSPCA (617-522-7400) and the American Red Cross. Compile and include a list of phone numbers for motels within 90 miles that are pet-friendly. You may need to utilize the United States Department of Agriculture Missing Pet Network on the Internet.




The best way to deal with an emergency or disaster is to be prepared for it.


For additional information, we urge you to consult with your veterinarian and to refer to the AVMA Disaster Preparedness series and materials from the American Red Cross. MVMA will be adding to our Links of Interest as well and will endeavor to have useful contact and response information available through our website in case of emergency or disaster.


Modified from materials provided by the fine veterinarians at Framingham Animal Hospital: Dr. Susan Rabaut, Dr. Terri Nord, Dr. Jeremy Gransky, and Dr. Jonathan Nathanson. We thank them for their generous support.



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