Everyone needs a disaster plan for members of their household. And that means pets too. Many animals die needlessly in disasters because their guardians simply aren’t prepared.
A lot of online resources exist for overall disaster planning, such as how to put together a disaster kit. If you’re new to disaster planning, these sites are good places to start:
Here we focus on disaster preparedness for pets.
Federal disaster plans now include pets and animals. As a result, we encourage you to bring your animals with you if you’re evacuated. Do not leave them in your residence with food and water. (See Evacuation for more information.)
General Planning Guidelines
Make sure your pet is identified properly. All dogs and cats should have collars with identification tags. Unfortunately, collars can come off or be taken off. A microchip is a permanent form of identification that can be used to reach you, your vet, and relatives or friends who may be resources in an emergency. You can have a microchip implanted during your pet’s next wellness exam. Be sure to keep your phone and address information updated with the microchip provider. Call 415.554.3030 for an appointment.
- Get your pet used to a crate or carrier. Many dogs are crate-trained, but most cats are not. Try feeding your pet in the crate; put a favorite toy or treat in it and, with cats, try putting catnip in the crate. If you leave the crate out in the home and treat it like a regular piece of furniture, your pet will get used to it.
- Make sure your pet is used to being handled. It will be easier to get it into a carrier if needed.
- Always have a picture of you and your pet, your pet’s microchip number and your contact numbers with you in case you need to evacuate.
Pet Emergency Kit
Pet emergency kits should contain:
- Harnesses, leashes and collars
- Regular food, plus bottled water (at least a seven day supply for each animal), non-spill bowls, a manual can opener and plastic lid for canned pet food
- Litter boxes, litter and a scoop
- Fresh bedding for small mammals
- Routine medications, a copy of your pet’s vaccine history and medical records for chronic conditions
- Muzzles and towels for safely handling injured or frightened animals (See Safety.)
- Plastic bags for feces clean up
- A flashlight and a fresh set of batteries
- Recent photos of the pet (especially with you in the picture)
- Long-term caging (baby gates, X-pens, portable fencing…)
- Phone numbers and location of your vet, the local emergency clinic, the phone number and location for San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC) and the Animal Control Poison Center (888.426.4435)
- A pet first aid kit and first aid book (We recommend Amazon for current products and publications.)
Pet First Aid Kit
In emergencies, a first aid kit for your pet is just as essential as one for yourself. Your pet first aid kit should contain:
- Gauze, roll type and squares
- Telfa pads, non-stick bandages or absorbent pads to control bleeding and protect wounds
- Adhesive tape to secure gauze or bandages. Do not use Band-Aids on pets; they can swallow them and cause an intestinal blockage.
- Triple antibiotic ointment such asNeosporin, etc.) for minor scrapes
- Activated charcoal or Milk of Magnesia to absorb poison and hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. If you can, call your vet or the poison center before treating an animal for poison. Otherwise, consult your pet first aid book.
- Digital rectal thermometer to check your pet’s temperature. Do not put the thermometer in the pet’s mouth! Normal cat and dog temperatures range from 100 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- An eye-dropper or large syringe without a needle or to administer oral medications
- A stretcher, which can be a board, a door or a strong large blanket to transport a large dog that can’t walk.
Although first aid is not a substitute for proper veterinary care, by learning basic first aid procedures, you can assist people in your neighborhood with sick or injured pets after a disaster.
- Even the gentlest pet may bite, scratch or become aggressive when in pain or when it is fearful.
- Never hug an injured animal. You can easily be bitten or attacked.
- Put a blanket or towel over pets to keep them contained and put a barrier between you and their teeth and claws.
- Reduce the chance of bites with a muzzle; muzzles for dogs can be made out of rope, stockings or long towels. Cats can be wrapped in a towel, but make sure they’re not wrapped too tightly. Leave their head and face uncovered so they can breathe.
- Examine injured animals slowly and stop if they become agitated.
- Never muzzle an animal that is vomiting.
- When you transport your pet, put it in a carrier, crate or box.
In case of evacuation, let disaster workers know that you have animals with you. Bring your pet emergency kit with your pet’s food, harness, leash, medications and bedding.
During a disaster, there may be auxiliary animal shelters set up near human shelters. If this is the case and you are being moved to a human shelter that has an auxiliary animal shelter in place, you can request that your pet be housed at that shelter.
In San Francisco, all evacuated animals that have not been placed with family or friends will be housed at SFACC (1200 15th Street at Harrison) until it reaches capacity. All evacuated exotic animals, small mammals and aggressive dogs and cats that have not been placed with family or friends will be housed at SFACC or across the street with the SF SPCA regardless of where the guardian is sheltered.