Disaster Preparedness For Pets

Taking your animals with you in an evacuation requires some forethought and planning. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Each year we see disasters in various forms all across the country. Tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes, blizzards and more can disrupt our lives and our families. In many families, that includes our animals.

When you consider gas leaks or toxic spills and acts of terrorism you realize anyone can be affected by a disaster. You could be told to leave your home for a short time, only to find the situation keeps you away from your home for weeks. If you do not take your animals with you, an evacuation of your family could mean another disaster back at home with your pets.

Because events occur quickly and decisions are made fast, you need to have a plan for yourself and your animals in case of a disaster.

First, acquaint yourself with the types of disasters that can affect your area. Then develop an evacuation plan for your animals. For pets this may mean putting the small animals in a carrier and into the car for immediate evacuation. For farm animals, you would need to have an appropriate trailer handy and know where you can take each animal to be away from the danger and where they can receive proper care. This takes some thought and planning.

In case you are not at home at the time of a disaster, place stickers on the front and back of your home or barn to notify neighbors or emergency personnel that animals are on your property and where they can find your evacuation supplies. Include a list of the number, type and location of all your animals. Have leashes, carriers and halters near by and easy to find.

If you have a friend or neighbor that you trust and is willing to help, let them know where they can find a key to your property and pre-arrange with them to take care of your animals in case you cannot get back home for some time. This is another reason to have supplies ready and easy to find.

Be sure all your animals have proper identification. Rabies and ID tags are the best form for small animals. Microchipping is becoming a popular form of animal identification. An ID tag on a halter works well for large animals.

An animal carrier and an evacuation kit are the two most important things to have ready in advance. Have your evacuation kit near the carrier or cage and keep the items in it fresh. This allows for fast action. For an evacuation all you would need to do is put your pets in the carrier and grab the kit. An old overnight bag or back pack works well.

Some of the items to keep in your animal’s evacuation bag:

Bottle of water
Gloves and muzzles
Paper towels
First aid kit
Veterinary records
List of contact phone numbers including your cell and prearranged evacuation spot, your veterinarian, local humane society, and friends
Towels for clean up or bedding
Trash bags
A letter signed by you giving others the authority to treat your pets in your absence.

When an evacuation order is issued, what are the steps you should take?

Bring all pets inside
Make sure they all have ID tags on
Get all pets into their carriers
Grab your evacuation kits
Get everyone into the car
Leave as soon as possible with your pets in the car
Along the way, call your pre-arranged evacuation site.
Let friends know where you are going

When you return, what should you do?

Look around both inside and out for dangerous objects, animals, or chemicals.
Let your pets have access to the indoor areas only until you can evaluate the outside areas for safety.
Don’t let animals engorge themselves with food or water when you get back.
Return to a normal routine slowly.
Let your pets rest and sleep
If your pets are lost, call shelters daily and visit lost pet web sites often.

If there has been any injury or exposure to questionable substances, call your veterinarian for a health exam.

As we have seen in several wide spread disasters, many people will not evacuate without their pets. Leaving your home with your family and pets in an emergency is smart, but takes pre-planning and thought.

Plan now and be able to act fast when minutes count. Your veterinarian can help you with this planning

Hope this helps

Debra Garrison. DVM

Crate Training

Crate training
Crate training your dog is a safe and humane way to contain your pet and eliminate unwanted behaviors while you are unable to watch your pet. When you crate train your pet properly, it will help you with housebreaking and  help to relieve anxiety and reduce barking  by providing a safe place for your pet.  A dog who is crate trained early will also be much more relaxed and calm, if it is necessary to travel or board later in life.

When determining if your dog will be confined to a crate or a room in your home, it is important to determine how long you will be absent. If you will be away for a really long time and you are not able to come home to let your dog out,  it may be advisable to confine your pet to a puppy-proofed room in your home with a convenient place to defecate. If you are away only a short time, it is advisable to confine the animal to a crate. If properly trained, your pet will soon see the cage as a safe haven much like a den.
When choosing to buy a crate, consider the size of your pet, personality, and your travel plans in the future. Your crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lay down comfortably. It should have a place for fresh water and food and adequate ventilation. If your pet is sociable and wants to see the world around them, then a mesh crate or a designer den may be a wonderful choice. However, if travel plans in the future of your family, then maybe a sturdy airline approved plastic crate would be a better option.


The first step in crate training your puppy is to teach your pet that crate is a safe haven for him. To do this you should avoid using the crate as a form of punishment and instead associate it with quiet, relaxing and enjoyable experiences. But it is good to remember that it is not a punishment but can be a  useful tool to eliminate certain destructive behaviors.

Begin by letting your puppy to explore the crate on his own. Make the crate a warm and welcoming place by putting his favorite pet bed inside and placing tasty treats or new toys. After a day of adequate exploration and he’s willing to go in and out of the crate on his own, take the dog out to eliminate and exercise.

After returning indoors, put him in the crate with food, water and some new toys. Shut the door and leave the room. Remain close enough to hear the puppy, but out of sight. If he is tired after the recent exercise, then the short nap in the box.

Vocalization and escape exploration is normal when your pet is first confined to his crate. Wait a few minutes, until the puppy has stopped vocalizing before releasing him. Do not let your puppy out when he barks or cry because it reinforces the behavior and links barking with being out of the cage. If your puppy will not stop barking, then some external behavior modification may be necessary to distract the pup and make it stop. A squirt bottle or shaker can be used for the startle response.

When you let your pet out of the box do not get excited or offer too much praise. To be released from the crate should not be treated as a reward, rather that  going in the cage should be praised and rewarded. Practice leaving your pet in the crate for short periods many times during the next few days. At bedtime, your pet should also be placed in the crate after taken outside for elimination and exercise.

As the puppy becomes more comfortable in her new crate, gradually increase the time the puppy is kept confined. Keep in mind how long your pet can hold his bladder and never let it be kept in a crate for longer than this time. As your pet gets older and the time spent in her new crate can be increased, hopefully he will like his space as a safe haven and a place to find new and exciting treats and toys.
Dr Debra Garrison

Dr. Debra Garrison
Dr. Debra Garrison