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December 29, 2012 at 12:45 AM

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When pets need to flee: Preparing for an emergency evacuation

A devastating storm or an earthquake could force you out of your home. If you have a pet, that can bring additional challenges. Having an emergency plan and a "go bag" for a pet can help both of you get through the worst of situations.

Take Winter By Storm, a local program that provides information on emergency preparedness and resources, is helping pet owners by offering a checklist for creating an emergency kit and plan on its website at We've listed some of those tips and others below.

As part of its preparedness plan, Seattle Animal Shelter has a new emergency, mobile animal shelter. The city's Pet Emergency Trailer-Seattle (PETS) has supplies to accommodate about 40 animals. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

While pets aren't allowed in most human shelters, local and national animal organizations have worked to partner with the American Red Cross and others to accommodate pets near shelters for people. In Seattle, the plan is to shelter people in community centers and pets in smaller buildings that are just steps away. The smaller buildings are usually used for storage but can serve as pet shelters.

"With the PETS trailer, we can move all the supplies necessary for a pet shelter to almost any location. We pop-up the shelter in that spot, hopefully within an easy walk from the human shelter. That way families can stay near each other, and pet owners can take part in the care of their animals," said Kara Main-Hester, Ph.D., Manager -- Volunteer Program and Fundraising at Seattle Animal Shelter in an email from Take Winter by Storm.

If a shelter for people is run by a jurisdiction and not the Red Cross, it is up to that jurisdiction to make their own decision on how they are going to accommodate pets, according to a statement from Take Winter By Storm. It's a requirement of the legislation that came out of Hurricane Katrina.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, survivors shared heartbreaking stories of having to leave thousands of pets and other animals behind because no provisions had been made to evacuate pets with families. Many never saw their pets again.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006 was created to ensure that the Katrina situation doesn't happen again in another disaster. PETS aims to ensure state and local emergency preparedness plans take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals in a disaster.

However, individuals still need to have their own plans for caring for pets in an emergency. Even with the PETS Act, there were stories of animal rescue groups scrambling to help lost or abandoned pets after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and other areas in late October.

When disaster hits, it can take days for emergency-relief organizations to reach those in need of help. That's why it's important to have an emergency kit and a plan. Here are some basic tips:

If you need to evacuate your home, try to take your pets with you. Keep in mind that animals may not be allowed inside a public shelter so you should look for appropriate lodging in advance for your pets. Have a list of pet-boarding facilities, pet-friendly hotels or friends who can take in your pets in your cellphone or in an emergency kit.

Supplies for an emergency kit for pets.
Photo courtesy of Take Winter by Storm.

You probably already have most of the supplies for an emergency kit for your pet. The kit or "go bag" just brings everything together in one place so it can be quickly found and carried.

Here are some of the basic emergency supplies to have on hand for your pet:

-- Pet carrier

-- Waterproof bag for carrying supplies

-- Medications and instructions (someone else may need to care for your pet)

-- Record of vaccinations
-- Food

-- Bottled water

-- Leash and extra collar with ID tags

-- Contact list that includes your information, your vet's phone number, nearby emergency veterinarian hospitals, animal shelters, boarding facilities and pet-friendly hotels.

-- A photo of you and your pet together. It may help document ownership and aid others in reuniting you with a pet if you become separated in an emergency.

For our own dog's kit, we have a small, inexpensive duffel bag packed with food, treats, an extra collar with ID tags, leash, a few toys (good for stress relief), food and water bowls, a towel and a few basic first aid supplies. It's literally a "go bag" that we use when taking our shiba on road trips. When our dog sees the bag, she knows it's time to go.

For a crate, we opted for one with nylon sides that's sturdy enough for travel but can be collapsed and stored nearly flat at home. Other options include hard shell crates and wire crates. Whatever style you choose, make sure the pet has enough room to comfortably stand, turn around and sleep inside the crate.

Other things to consider:

-- Consider getting a microchip ID and registering it with a database.

-- Sanitation supplies: Pet litter, litter box, trash bags.

-- Make a plan. (Who will pick up the pet, where will you go, etc.)

-- Buddy up. Create a buddy system with neighbors or nearby friends who can care for your pet if you're unable to.

For more information about creating emergency preparedness kits for your family and pets, go to

The City of Seattle offers information at

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Don't consider having your pet microchipped, GET YOUR PET MICROCHIPPED If you get... MORE
It sure would be nice to see some pictures, a list of supplies or a point of contact... MORE

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