Pet and Animal Emergency Preparedness


This is an informational paper on pet and animal emergency preparedness. The paper discusses the need for animal emergency planning, the impact that pets have on their owners during disasters, how to prepare for animals during disasters, stakeholder partners involved, and the current state of animal preparedness.


Due to emergency management being a fairly new field, not all aspects of emergency management have been thoroughly elaborated upon or explored as much as they should have been explored. One of these aspects is pet and animal emergency planning.

Pet and animal emergency planning is an aspect of emergency management that can be tricky to get the public on board with. This is because a large amount of the public does not feel a need to plan for their families and themselves, let alone plan for their pets and animals. However, after a disaster occurs and they experience what it is like to be unprepared for a disaster, they are more likely to take precautions to mitigate the ways in which disasters affect them in the future.

To avoid experiencing what it is like to go through a disaster unprepared, it is important for the public to receive education and information on how to be prepared for a disaster. An important part of this education and training is what to do with pets and animals during an emergency situation or disaster.

The Need for Animal Emergency Planning

Animals and pets need to be considered when emergency plans are being created. This is because animals can be impacted just as much as humans can when disasters occur.

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If animals are not prepared for and a disaster occurs, animals will face many challenges. These challenges include but are not limited to lack of resources such as food and drinking water, lack of shelter, and lack of medical supplies and/or medical evaluation. Going to lack of shelter, many shelters that open for humans when disasters occur do not allow pets. There are also not many shelters that are specifically open to pets. This creates the issue of what to do with these animals. “During a disaster, many pet owners want to evacuate their pets with them, only to find that evacuation and sheltering options are limited or nonexistent. This disregard for companion animal welfare during a disaster can have public health consequences. Pet owners may be stranded at home, unwilling to leave their pets behind. Others refuse evacuation orders or attempt to reenter evacuation sites illegally to rescue their animals”(Chadwin, Robin,D.V.M., M.P.V.M.).

If people are not able to take their pets with them or have a place for their pets to stay during a disaster, many animal owners will take it upon themselves to stay behind with their pets to try to ensure the safety of their animals. To truly understand how strongly some people feel about staying behind with their animals when disasters occur, choices that animal owners made about their pets during Hurricane Katrina as well as other disasters in recent times can be examined. “Pets during disasters can put people at risk as well. Before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of people refused evacuation because they couldn’t take their pets along” (McLain, L. (2012). When disaster strikes…). “Ninety pet owners and 27 non-pet owners who lived in mandatory evacuation zones during the 2011 Hurricane Irene were surveyed about whether or not they evacuated and about their experiences during the hurricane. Although pet-ownership was not statistically associated with evacuation failure, many pet owners who chose not to evacuate still claimed that they did not evacuate because of difficulties with evacuating their pet” (Hunt, M. G., Bogue, K., & Rohrbaugh, N.).

It is important to realize that during Hurricane Katrina, some residents were in areas that they were ordered to evacuate. Some of these people chose to not evacuate because they did not want to leave their animals behind. This goes back to the fact that if animals are not prepared for, people will take it upon themselves to stay behind and try to ensure safety of their pets on their own. People choose to stay behind with their pets and animals because they think of them as their family or children. “Many companion‐animal owners consider their pets an integral member of the family and often report feeling psychologically attached and emotionally close to their animal or animals” (Trigg, J., Thompson, K., Smith, B., & Bennett, P.). This leads to people having a strong connection to their animals. If animals are not prepared for, the option for what to do with animals during disasters is leave them behind to fend for themselves.

Having a strong connection to their animals makes people think twice about just leaving their pets alone. “Sixty-five predominantly white, female, middle-aged pet owners who lived in affected regions of the country completed online questionnaires, assessing symptoms of depression, acute stress, peri-traumatic dissociation, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” (Hunt, M., Al-Awadi, H., & Johnson, M.). The sixty-five women that answered the online questionnaires were tasked with the decision of what to do with their pets during Hurricane Irene. This goes to show that the connection that pet owners have with their pets makes it hard on the owner if they do chose to leave their pets behind during a disaster. “New Jersey has more than 1.5 million farm animals, mostly horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.

There also are nearly 7 million chickens and other poultry in New Jersey. In addition, it is estimated that there are 1.64 million dogs and 1.82 million cats owned throughout this state” (COLLABORATING TO KEEP ANIMALS SAFE). These numbers just show how many animals are in the state of New Jersey. This is only one state. It is just a given that larger states have a larger number of animals. With this being said, there are so many animals throughout the United States that need to be planned and prepared for. If they are not taken into consideration for disaster planning, this allows issues to arise that have previously been mentioned. To sum it up, pets and animals need to be planned for because animals can experience lack of necessities such as shelter, have an impact on their owners, and there are a large number of animals throughout the United States.

Impact on Owners

Animals in disasters impact their owners. As mentioned previously, animal owners face tough decisions when determining what to do with their animals when disasters occur. This creates a psychological impact on owners. In many situations, owners have to determine if they want to leave their pets behind or if they want to stay behind with their pets. If owners choose to leave their pets behind, they may experience high levels of stress because they are concerned about their pet while they are away during evacuation. If an owner chooses to stay with their pet, the owner could be risking his or her life. This is because disasters bring many different situations with them. With Hurricane Katrina, individuals that chose to stay behind with their pets risked their lives and many died due to being drowned by floodwaters. Animals in disaster also have an economical impact on their owners. This is because animals in disaster can become expensive. The expenses could result from food, shelter, and medical attention. These expenses come out of pocket for most animal owners because pet insurance is unlikely.

How to Prepare for Animals in Disaster

It has been established that animals in disasters need to be prepared for. There are many ways that animals can be prepared for when it comes to disasters. “FEMA has also developed several animal specific training courses. These are the Independent Study courses Animals in Disasters (IS-10) [7], Community Preparedness (IS-11) [8], and Livestock in Disasters (IS-111) [9]. These, together with basic training in Incident Command (ICS-100, ICS-200) [10,11] and expertise of handling animals form the basis of the credentialing system for entry-level animal emergency responders” (Heath, S. E., & Linnabary, R. D.). FEMA has many online study courses. In efforts to help with animal emergency preparedness, FEMA has created the online study courses that have been mentioned. These courses are mainly used for individuals in the emergency management field. However, these courses are open to the public and anyone looking for more information on how to prepare for animals in the event of a disaster could look into these online courses. One of the simplest ways that individuals can prepare for a disaster is to create a disaster kit.

The disaster kit should include many things. “Disaster preparedness was defined as having the items that FEMA recommends as the minimum requirements for basic preparedness. This consists of 72 hours worth of non-perishable food and potable water for each individual in the household, as well as medications and a few other necessary items” (Annis, H., Jacoby, I., & DeMers, G.). Just like humans, pets should have a disaster kit. Similar to the human disaster kit, pet disaster kits should have the standard 72 hours of food and water. If a disaster kit is being created for a dog, the disaster kit should also include the following: leashes and collars, muzzles, cages, medical supplies, entertainment, bathroom pads, pictures of the animals, identification tags, and shot records. All of these items would be the minimum items that should be included in a dog disaster kit. In the event of a disaster, the leashes, collars, muzzles, and cages would be used to keep the animal under control.

The medical supplies would be used if the animal were injured. Entertainment for a dog is simply toys and treats. This would help to keep the animal busy. Bathroom pads could be used if it is not possible for the animal to go outside to go to the bathroom. The most important parts of the disaster kit may be pictures of the animal, identification tags, and shot records. This is because if an animal is taken somewhere such as a shelter, the animal can be involved in reunification if the animal is separated from its owner. The shot records would be essential if an animal is taken to a shelter. “A disease outbreak in domestic dogs was reported by a coastal Chilean community following the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami. Using clinical exams and diagnostic testing, canine distemper virus was confirmed. Most dogs seen had never been vaccinated, and the majority of those with positive results were recorded in dogs less than two years of age” (Garde, E., Perez, G., Acosta-Jamett, G., & Bronsvoort, B. M.). Upon entering shelter, owners would need to provide shot records for their animal(s). This would work to eliminate a situation similar to the incident that happened in a coastal Chilean community following the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami. If an animal does not have specific shots required to enter the shelter, a veterinarian upon entering the shelter could administer them. The point of the shot records is to not create another disaster during a disaster that would already being occurring. Online FEMA courses and disaster kits are not the only ways to prepare for animals in disasters but it is a good place to start.

Stakeholder Partners

Once a need for planning for animals in disasters has been determined and an effort is being made to prepare for animals in disasters, stakeholder partners can be identified. There are similarities between stakeholder partners for humans in disaster and animals in disaster. “Team members will work with area animal rescue groups and kennels, pet stores, veterinarian clinics, the Red Cross and other interested groups to decide how each could serve animals during a disaster” (Caroline Brustad, /. T. H.). The American Red Cross is one stakeholder partner that can be used for both humans and animals in disaster. The American Red Cross could be used for many things with animals in disaster. The American Red Cross may work with other stakeholder partners to provide supplies, shelter, and reunification processes for animals. As mentioned previously, veterinarian clinics may be a stakeholder partner. Veterinarian clinics can provide medical necessities to animals during disasters. Another stakeholder partner for animals in disasters is CART teams or community animal rescue teams. CART teams are used during disasters to provide for the health and welfare of animals as well as search efforts for animals that are missing. The American Red Cross and CART teams may work together to go through the reunification process with animals during disasters.

Current State of Animal Preparedness

Since Hurricane Katrina and other disasters that have had an impact on animals have occurred, the need for pet and animal preparedness has slowly started to increase. There have been legal acts passed to ensure that animals are prepared for. In 2006, the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act was passed. This act made it necessary for local, state, and federal governments to plan for animals during disasters. This act enforced that pets can be evacuated with their owners or other arrangements are made if owners are evacuated and pets cannot be evacuated with them. This act requires that pet friendly shelters be set up. If pet friendly shelters cannot be set up and it is safe to do so, owners have the option to leave their pets behind in shelters such as kennels, barns, and pastures with basic necessities provided such as food and water. The federal government has made an effort to better prepare for animals during disaster. However, local governments and the public still have a long way to go to be fully prepared for pets and animals during disasters. The Union County Emergency Management Agency in Pennsylvania does not have a plan of action for animals and pets that reside in the county if a disaster occurs. This leaves the pet owners on their own to deal with their animals. In Union County, Pennsylvania, residents try to handle most things on their own when disasters occur. This means that residents try to handle their animals on their own when disasters occur. This has caused problems in the past for animals because the residents of Union County do not realize that precautions could be taken to ensure the safety of their animals ahead of time rather than wait until a disaster occurs and not know what to do.


Pets and animals are just as likely as humans to be impacted when disasters occur. The impact that a disaster has on animals may be greater than the impact that a disaster has on humans for the simple fact that animals are not as prepared for disaster situations as humans are. This is because many people do not realize that animals need to be prepared for. However, there is a need for animals to be prepared for should disaster situations arise. Animals impact their owner by creating psychological and economical situations that pet owners experience when disasters occur. There are many ways that animals can be prepared for and this is dependent on humans. There are many partners that can be called upon to assist with animals when needed when disaster occur. Currently, there are some ways that animals are prepared for but these efforts are not where they should be. In order to better prepare for animals during disaster situations, there needs to be a rise in public knowledge about why animals need to be prepared for and how animals can be prepared for. This can be accomplished by working harder to inform the public on how essential planning for pets and animals for

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Pet and Animal Emergency Preparedness. (2022, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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