When developing an emergency preparedness plan, remember to consider the needs of your family pets. Pets left behind can become injured, lost or ill. So plan for the day when you and your pets may have to leave home or become separated due to a disaster.
As this page mainly concentrates on you preparing for major emergencies, day to day events can be just as dangerous for your pets. If it is too hot or too cold outside for you, it is for your pets as well. During the extreme summer heat, please do not leave your pets in closed up vehicles or outside without adequate shelter and water; also know that if the concrete is too hot for your feet, it is too hot for their paws as well. During extreme cold, please do not leave your pets outdoors without adequate shelter, if possible, bring them indoors or in some sort of shelter away from the elements, with adequate food and non-frozen water.
Community disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety issues. The only animals allowed in shelters are service animals that assist people with disabilities. However, provisions have recently been made by the Nashville Humane Association to assemble pet shelters in close proximity to Red Cross disaster shelters, keeping pets and their owners together.
Here are some additional sheltering options to consider before a disaster strikes:
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets.
- Ask friends, relatives and others outside of your immediate area whether they could shelter your animals.
- Prepare a list of animal shelters, boarding facilities and veterinarian offices that could shelter animals during an emergency, and include 24-hour phone numbers.
- Leave your pets at home alone only as a last resort, and then be sure to leave them enough food and water. Arrange to make the pets as comfortable as possible by giving them a safe, familiar place to stay and a familiar towel or blanket.
- Place stickers on the front and back of the house, barn and pasture entrances to notify neighbors and rescue workers that animals are on the property and where to find your pet disaster supply kit. Near your pet disaster supplies, post a list of the number, type and location of your animals, noting favorite hiding spots in order to save precious rescue time. Also, provide muzzles, handling gloves, catch nets and animal restraints where rescue workers can find them.
Pet Disaster Supply Kit
Assemble a portable pet disaster supply kit that includes:
- Medications, immunization records and a first aid kit.
- Sturdy leashes, muzzles, harnesses, carriers or cages to transport pets safely.
- Current photos and descriptions of your pets, in case they get lost.
- Food and drinking water for at least three days for each pet, bowls, cat litter/pan and can opener.
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems and your veterinarian's contact information.
- Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.
- Newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items and household bleach
Before the Disaster
- Microchip your pet! Make sure your contact information is up to date with the microchip so you can be contacted if someone finds your pet.
- Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
- Have a current photograph of your pet, preferably with you in the photo.
- Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
- Have a properly sized pet carrier for each animal. Carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
- Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet. Potential refuges for your pet during a disaster include specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way.
- Learn about the AKC Companion Animal Recovery program.
Before and During the Disaster
- Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for your pet if possible.
- Make 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, and microchipped if possible.
After the Disaster
- Walk pets on a leash until they become reoriented to their home. Often, familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily become confused and lost.
- Downed power lines, high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
- Remember, after a disaster, animals can become very scared, fearful, disoriented and even aggressive or defensive. So monitor their behavior.
- If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact Animal Control at (615) 862-7928 to find out where lost animals can be claimed.
Recovering Lost Pets
- Often, lost pets are picked up by Metro Animal Control. Lost pet owners and the general public are always welcome to visit Metro Animal Control. Due to the likelihood of a larger than normal number of stray animals being picked up, frequent visits to the facility is recommended. Visitation hours and a location map are available.
- If you microchipped your pet, this will make it much easier to recover your lost pet. A rescue shelter or pet clinic will scan your pet for a microchip and should be able to make contact with you with the information on file with the chip.
- Post you pet's information on Web sites that are designed to help reunite lost pets with their owners. For more information, visit Lost Pet Finders. Also, check to see if your pet may have been dropped off at the Nashville Human Association. For location and hours of operation, visit Nashville Human Association.
- Other places to check for lost pets are the newspaper classified ads and bulletin boards at veterinarian offices.
- Remember, lost pet ads are a potential haven for con artists. So if you have posted a lost pet ad or bulletin offering reward money, never offer payment over the phone or without a person-to-person exchange of the reward money for your pet. Always arrange a reunion point in a well-lit, public place and ask a friend to go along.
Consider leaving exotic pets such as reptiles, parrots and ferrets with friends or relatives who are safely out of harm's way. Exotic pets usually require specialized care and feeding, and are more sensitive to environmental changes than dogs or cats.
Some animal control officials say cows and horses are better off in a pasture. Others recommend sheltering livestock in a stable, barn or shed. You should decide now which avenue you will take.
Other Related Animal Safety Links
These sites contain information that could help you protect family and exotic pets, livestock and other animals when a disaster strikes:
Humane Society of the United States/Disaster Preparedness Brochures
USDA Protecting Livestock During a Disaster
USDA Disaster Resource Center
ASPCA: Animals and Disasters
AVMA/The American Veterinary Medical Association/Saving the whole family