Are you prepared for an emergency evacuation? Does your current plan include your pet? Don’t leave your pet’s safety up to chance or wait until a natural disaster to discover that your evacuation site doesn’t accept four-legged family members. Palm Valley Veterinary Center recommends maintaining and updating your personal evacuation plan to ensure safe arrangements for your pet. 

Keep your pet’s identification accurate at all times

Emergency evacuations can be chaotic and frightening. Pets may sense their owner’s stress and anxiety and behave uncharacteristically—potentially leading to accidental escape or separation. Pet identification is a simple but essential step to ensure your pet can be identified and returned to you when found. To be effective, however, identification information must be present (i.e., on the pet), legible, and up to date. Recommended pet identification includes:

  • Collar or harness — Ensure your pet’s collar or harness is well-fitted (i.e., allowing one or two fingers underneath). Cats should wear a breakaway collar to prevent accidental choking.
  • Identification tags — Traditional dangling tags may get hung up or fall off. Flat tags that can be riveted on or attached to the collar or harness are a better choice. In a pinch, painter’s tape and permanent marker can be used to create a makeshift tag.
  • Microchip — Microchips are the only permanent pet identification method. Palm Valley Veterinary Center can microchip your pet during any outpatient appointment. After implantation, you should immediately register your pet’s microchip number with a chip database—often the manufacturer—to ensure you can be contacted if your lost pet is found. 
  • Tattoo or permanent marker — During an emergency, an indelible marker may be used to write your phone number on a hairless area of your pet such as the abdomen or ear.

Teach your pet how to travel

If your pet isn’t the traveling-type, take some time to acclimate them to the process, including using their car restraint (e.g., crate, carrier, or seat belt), being inside the car while in motion or stopped, and accepting any general handling that may be necessary, such as lifting, carrying, or walking on a leash. 

Palm Valley Veterinary Center strongly recommends that all pets travel in a reliable restraint system such as a crate or pet seat belt. Pets who are confined are not a safety threat to the driver or passengers and are not at risk for escape during stops. Because crates may be used to house pets at emergency evacuation centers, we encourage all pet owners to familiarize their pet with a crate to decrease the likelihood of anxious, destructive, or panicky behavior.  

Have a “go box” for your pet

If the winds change and the storm path shifts, you may need to evacuate quickly. Keeping an emergency “go box” containing your pet’s essential items can save precious time during an evacuation and ensure you have everything your pet needs for travel. 

Your pet’s “go box” should be an airtight container stored in an easy-to-reach location—ideally near your car with your pet’s crate close at hand—and be clearly labeled for fast identification. Suggestions for filling the box include:

  • Food, water, and bowls
  • Pet medications
  • Litter box and litter
  • Can opener for canned food
  • Emergency numbers (e.g., Palm Valley Veterinary Center, family and friends, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center)
  • Your contact information
  • Veterinary records in a sealed and waterproof bag
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Extra leash and collar
  • Current photos of you and your pet in case they become lost
  • Familiar toys and/or blanket or small bed for comfort
  • Cleaning supplies (e.g., waste bags, paper towels, pet stain remover)

Check your box quarterly and replace any expired food or medications. Stock the box with at least 10 to 14 days worth of supplies in case you aren’t allowed to return home right away.

Stay up to date on your pet’s vaccinations

Many pet boarding facilities, evacuation centers, and makeshift animal shelters require proof of vaccinations in order to house your pet. And because you can’t always ensure you’ll be able to reach your destination or a specific shelter will have room for your pet, Palm Valley Veterinary Center recommends keeping your pet current on their core vaccinations at all times.  

Plan your route and find out if your destination accepts pets

Evaluate your evacuation route to determine where you can stay with your pet. Although many inland boarding facilities, animal shelters, and veterinary hospitals are willing to receive displaced pets, these locations typically fill up quickly—making them an unreliable option during an emergency evacuation. Large-scale evacuation shelters such as those provided by the Red Cross maintain strict no pet policies because of health and safety concerns.

Another option is to contact family and friends along your route to find out if they would temporarily house your pet during an emergency. Pet-friendly hotels and motels are another alternative, but be prepared to call ahead as soon as you know you’re leaving to ensure availability. If necessary, ask pet-free accommodations if they will waive their policies during an emergency. 

Watch for pet hazards when you return home

When you return home after a disaster or storm, remember that your pet is likely exhausted, disoriented, and possibly scared. Evaluate your home and yard for storm damage and safety hazards, ensuring all fencing and pet barriers are secure. Consider keeping your pet confined to a small room or their crate for the first 24 hours and leashing your dog to go outside. These measures can help prevent panic or accidental escape if your pet gets spooked by a sudden sound, smell, or change in their environment.

Evacuations are stressful enough—give yourself peace of mind by planning for your pet’s needs in advance. Schedule an appointment at Palm Valley Veterinary Center to update your pet’s vaccines and wellness services.