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Disaster preparedness for pets


 Fire crews work to save an Acton, CA. home from the Station fire.   AP Photo/Dan Steinberg.

It's fire season in Southern California and residents are taking a beating. As of Monday, August 31st, with barely five percent containment, flames have already consumed more than 85,000 acres of land, forced the evaucation of at least 10,000 people, destroyed 21 homes, and tragically, claimed the lives of two firefighters.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been affected by the devstating fires.

Whether it's a large-scale natural catastrophe or an unforseen emergency, everyone can benefit from a well-thought-out household evacuation plan - especially those of us with pets.  When planning ahead, keep the following in mind:

If you need to evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind.  They are not likely to survive on their own.  For public health reasons, most emerbgency shelters do not accept pets.  Do some research now to find area hotels/motels that are pet-friendly and identify a few friends and family members who would be willing to shelter your pets in an emergency.  As s matter of corporate policy, all Motel 6 properties and 99% of La Quinta Inns & Suites are pet-friendly.
Make absolutely certain that your pets wear collars with identification tags at all times. Keep the contact information up-to-date. Consider adding a cell phone number or number of an out-of-area friend or relative to maximize the opportunities for an appropriate caretaker to be contacted regarding your pet. Have your dogs and cats microchipped at your vet’s office or local shelter, to provide them with a permanent source of identification.
Keep an appropriately sized crate or pet carrier on-hand. In the event of an earthquake, confining your pets in a crate will help prevent injuries from broken glass or other foreign objects. Depending on the extent of damage to your home, you may need the crate to keep your pet safely confined on your property. If you do not regularly use a crate with your pets, consider occasionally feeding them in the crate to help acclimate them to it in advance.
Create a Pet Survival Kit that is kept in an easily accessible place and contains necessities like pet food, bottled water, medication, food/water bowls, a can opener and one or more sturdy leashes. Include relevant information about your pet such as veterinarian information and a brief medical history. Make sure to include your contact information as well as the contact information of any persons authorized to care for your pet in your absence. Include a current photo of each of your pets. If space allows, include your pet’s bed and a familiar toy to help reduce stress.
Make a list of area boarding facilities, veterinarian offices and shelters. In the event that you are unable to return to your home right away and need long-term care for your animals, these facilities can assist you in finding appropriate care for your pets. If you must place your pet in temporary foster care with a friend or boarding facility, make sure your Pet Survival Kit accompanies him.
Keep in mind that not all emergencies take place while you are home with your pets. Designate a nearby friend or family member who would be willing to go to your home to check on your pets and pick them up if necessary. Make sure this person has a key to your home and knows where to find your Pet Survival Kit. Consider adding an Animal Rescue Sticker to your front door or window to alert rescue personnel of the type and number of animals inside. Rescue stickers can be purchased at most pet stores and are available free-of-charge at
If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home while you evacuate in an emergency, the Humane Society of the United States offers the following suggestions:
  1. Confine your pet to a safe area inside the home. Never leave your pet chained up.
  2. Leave your pet with plenty of fresh water, preferably in a non-tip/non-spill bowl.
  3. Place a visible notice outside advising rescue personnel what pets are inside the house and where they are located. Include phone numbers for yourself, your pet’s emergency contact and the veterinarian. 
  4. Leave leashes, transport carriers and your Pet Survival Kit where they can easily be found.