Don’t forget to include animals when preparing for emergencies

By Paul Schattenberg

COLLEGE STATION — June is National Pet Preparedness Month, providing an opportunity for people to learn how to plan for pet safety during a disaster or emergency, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

“If you need to evacuate your home due to a disaster or other emergency, it’s important to also consider what you will need to do with your pet ahead of that time,” said Dr. Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension specialist in emergency management, College Station. “Whether you decide to stay put or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make emergency preparations that include your pets. The most important thing to do is integrate a pet emergency plan with your family emergency plan.”

Vestal said an important aspect of preparing a pet for an emergency is to make sure the pet is properly identified through up-to-date tags, including a tag with your family’s address and phone number and, if possible, information on a likely evacuation location.

“You should consider micro-chipping your pet,” he said. “And be sure to have a photo of your pet, including a photo of your pet with family members, in order to resolve any potential issues with establishing ownership.”

Vestal said many emergency shelters do not accept pets, so pre-identify shelters and ask if they accept pets. Also identify any hotels and motels on the proposed evacuation route that will accept them.

“Check the internet and travel guides for which hotels or motels permit pets and remember to include any local animal shelter number on your list of emergency numbers,” he said.  “Some shelters do have separate facilities for pets but you should check in advance and find out what they might need in the way of vet records, a kennel for holding your pet or other requirements for sheltering.”

In Texas, dialing 2-1-1 will get the caller to a Health and Human Services representative who can provide additional information on sheltering, Vestal added.

Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension specialist in family and community health, College Station, said preparing a pet emergency kit is a necessary part of pet readiness.

“Some of the items you need to collect for this kit would include the pet’s veterinary record and medications, a towel or blanket, at least three day’s worth of pet food, bottled water, litter and a litter pan if you have cats and first-aid kit,” Cavanagh said. “And be sure to take a pet carrier, leash or harness so your pet doesn’t escape should it suddenly panic.”

Cavanagh said pet owners should also locate where any pet boarding facilities are located in the event pets need to be relocated for a longer period of time.

“Most kennels, vets and animal shelters will want to see your pet’s vaccination and medical records, which is another reason it’s important to include these in your kit,” she said. “If these are not options, consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency. Identify neighbors, friends or relatives who can care for or evacuate your pets if you can’t. Also, make a list of contact information and addresses of area animal control agencies including the Humane Society, SPCA and emergency veterinary hospitals.”

She said not to leave pets in the home if there’s an emergency or disaster as this can put them in grave danger.

Vestal said during an emergency people should immediately bring their pets inside.

“Have paper towels, newspapers and trash bags available for sanitary purposes and feed them moist or canned food so they will need less water to drink,” he said. “When pets are afraid, they often isolate themselves, so bringing them inside will help keep them from running away. Never leave a pet tied up outside during a weather emergency or other disaster.”

He also recommended separating dogs and cats as the additional stress may make them act irrationally.

“Bird owners may have to take their avian friends with them in the event of an emergency,” Cavanagh noted. “See about buying a food dispenser that regulates the amount of food and make sure that the bird is in a cage covered by a thin cloth or sheet.

For more on how to prepare pets for disaster or emergency situations, go to

Vestal said those in more rural areas or on farms and ranches may have livestock in addition to pets, so preparations also need to be made for these larger animals.

“Cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs and any other large animals need to be identified and moved out of flood-prone areas,” he said. “You should try and evacuate or move them if possible, so determine what your primary and secondary evacuation routes might be. Then when the time comes, secure the vehicles and trailers needed for transporting the animals.”

He said be sure the relocation destinations have food, water and access to veterinary care.

“If you can’t evacuate the animals, then you have to decide if you can get the larger animals into a barn or other shelter — or need to turn them outside,” he said.

Vestal said in areas of Texas where the weather can get especially cold, livestock owners need to take additional efforts to prepare and protect their animals.

“Prevention is key in helping the animals avoid hypothermia, frostbite and other cold weather-related problems,” he said. “Make sure livestock have adequate shelter, dry bedding to insulate vulnerable body parts, windbreaks to keep them protected from frigid winds and snow drifts, and sufficient food and water.”

He said serious injuries and death as a result of cold weather typically occur in very young or already compromised animals, such as those with an undetected infection.

“Sudden livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated so steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals,” Vestal said.

He said additional information on livestock preparedness can be found through viewing videos made by AgriLife Extension experts and available on YouTube. The first is Evacuating Horses, which features former AgriLife Extension horse specialist Brett Scott. This video can be found at


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