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Veterinary Medicine

Veterinarians suggest planning ahead to ease pet evacuation in case of natural disaster

October 10, 2013
by Dr. Heather Weir

Historic flash floods in Colorado in September showed us that natural disasters can catch us unprepared.

A rescue alert sticker, such as this one, may be filled out and posted near a home entryway to help first responders. Nobody wants to evacuate, but each year catastrophes strike around the country and force evacuation. Planning ahead for such an eventuality goes a long way to keeping people and pets safe – and reducing at least some stress – if and when flooding, wildfire, or another emergency occurs. 

Tips for pet evacuation

Here are some planning steps you can take that will help if you ever need to evacuate your home:

  • Make sure all pets wear current, legible identification with complete and accurate information.  A microchip is a more permanent way of identifying your pet; its information also must be kept current and accurate.
  • Attach rescue alert stickers in places, such as entryways, that would be visible to first responders. These stickers are available through a number of outlets, and allow pet owners to indicate the types and number of animals in a household. In the event that you evacuate with your pets, you can write “Evacuated” across the sticker to alert rescuers about your pets’ status.
  • Arrange safe places for your pets to stay in the event of an evacuation. These should be places outside your immediate area. Examples are homes of friends or family members, boarding facilities, animal shelters, veterinary hospitals, or pet-friendly hotels or motels.  Keep this list with your emergency supplies.
  • Plan ahead for pet health and safety if you ever need to evacuate your home. Photo courtesy of Colorado National Guard.Keep a store of emergency supplies in a large plastic bin or other easily transported storage container. Stock it with items that may be stored for long periods. Examples: disposable litter trays for cats (aluminum roasting pans work well); cat litter; liquid dish soap and disinfectant; garbage bags; paper towels; copies of medical records; and blankets.
  • With these supplies, keep a list of things you might need to quickly assemble if evacuation is necessary. Important items are pet food and drinking water to last seven days; pet dishes; medications; leashes; and special toys.
  • A sturdy pet crate is one of the best investments you can make for safety and will help you to easily transport and contain your pet.  

These steps will help evacuation go more smoothly and safely. If you have to evacuate your home, it is generally best to take your pets with you; if staying at your home is not safe for you, it likely is not safe for your pets, either.

Dr. Heather Weir is a veterinarian with the Community Practice Service at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The group provides general care, wellness services, and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses for pets.