When disaster strikes, what will you do with your pets?
Answer: Take them with you
1) Take them with you to a shelter. One of the lessons of the historic Hurricane Katrina catastrophe was that people will not leave their homes without their pets, even during a mandatory evacuation order. It is now mandatory that any government-based disaster preparedness plan include provisions for pets.
Enter the County Animal Response Team of Rockland (CARToR), comprised of members from the Health Department, Animal Control, and of course, the veterinary community (me!). During Hurricane Irene, CARToR staffed a shelter alongside the Red Cross at Rockland Community College for people who stayed at the shelter and brought their pets with them. Only designated shelters will accept pets, so make sure you check before you go.
2) Plan ahead. Find pet-friendly accommodations outside your area. Make arrangements with family or friends who might be able to house you and your pets. Research pet-friendly motels. Compile a list of 24-hr veterinary hospitals with boarding facilities.
3) Compile a go bag with your pet’s supplies.
Here is a list of things to include:
• Pet medications (1-2 weeks)
• Important documents (pertinent medical history, proof of vaccination, license, your veterinarian’s card)
• Leash, collar and harness for each pet.
• Photo of your pet with its name and description and your name and info.
• Food and water bowls.
• Bottles of water and cans or bags of food (can opener, if necessary).
• Crate or kennel (collapsible if possible).
• Litter pan, litter & litter scoop for cats.
• Blankets / towels.
4) Make sure your pets have identification. Pets can act uncharacteristically when they are frightened. Pets that usually get along may fight. They may hide or try to escape during a disaster. Proper identification will allow you to become reunited with them should they be separated from you. A collar with identification is essential. Consider
attaching multiple tags with alternate numbers of family or friends in case your phone service is not available. A microchip—a computer chip inserted under your pet’s skin—is an excellent backup if your pet loses its collar. The microchip can be scanned and your contact information accessed from a national database. Some veterinarians offer a pet ID card with the pet’s picture, description, vaccine history, and veterinarian information. (My clients love them!)
Your veterinarian can provide additional information on disaster preparedness. Additional information for pet owners can also be obtained at—
We were fortunate during Hurricane Irene to have days to prepare. Other types of disasters (think: Indian Point) may only give us minutes, so having everything prepared ahead of time will give you the best chance to ensure the safety of your pets.
Co-owner of Valley Cottage Animal Hospital, Dr. Diane Tortorice earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1991 from North Carolina State University. She is a board certified Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners specializing in canine & feline practice. Dr. Tortorice has served as a veterinary volunteer at both the World Trade Center and New Orleans animal disaster sites