Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

If It’s Not Safe For Us, It’s Not Safe For Them

The snow is coming…
We all remember the sad stories of displaced, lost, and homeless pets from Hurricane Katrina. The depressing fact is that this kind of thing happens all too often – folks neglect to plan for their pets in case of disaster or emergency, they find out the shelter to which they’re headed doesn’t allow pets, they lock their pets up at home and hope for the best, and then pets get lost, injured, or even killed.

Even as we head out of hurricane season, we head into that jolly season of potentially destructive snowstorms! (Remember all those snow days last winter?) The responsible thing to do is to simply have a plan. What does that mean and how does one do it? Read on…

  1. Know your options. In the event of a weather emergency such as a hurricane or snowstorm power outage, you’ll need to take your pets somewhere safe, since many Red Cross shelters don’t accept pets. Ask your vet what she recommends; find out if your local shelter offers foster or emergency boarding. Make arrangements with friends and family nearby or along your evacuation route, or get information about pet-friendly hotels along the way.
  2. Make sure your pet is always wearing a collar with ID tag, and has a microchip implanted with your most current information on file. That way if you get separated, officials can get in touch with you.
  3. If you evacuate, do so early so you don’t get stuck on the road without fuel or without a place to stay. The sooner you leave, the less stressful it is on your pets, too (think high winds, sirens, storms, dangerous roads, stressed humans, etc). Make sure you have everything on this Basic Disaster Kit list provided by the Humane Society USA:
    • Food and water for at least five days for each pet, bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food. People need at least one gallon of water per person per day. While your pet may not need that much, keep an extra gallon on hand to use if your pet has been exposed to chemicals or flood waters and needs to be rinsed.
    • Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a first-aid kit. A pet first-aid book is also a good idea.
    • Cat litter box, litter, litter scoop and garbage bags to collect all your pets’ waste.
    • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers to transport pets safely and to ensure that your pets can’t escape. Carriers should be large enough to allow your pet to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down. (Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours at a time.) Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it to accommodate smaller pets—who may also need blankets or towels for bedding and warmth as well as special items, depending on their species.
    • Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated—and to prove that they are yours once you’re reunited.
    • Written information about your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.

Also recommended: newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, bleach, and grooming supplies.

  1. Whether you stay home or evacuate, keep your pets close by you as well as your supplies.
  2. If you end up in a new place, remember to be especially patient and loving with your pet, as he will probably feel nervous and insecure, at least at first. Also, make sure to be extra vigilant so he doesn’t wander off or get lost.

There are other times, too, you’ll want to have care for your pets in place in advance. For example, what happens if you for some reason can’t get home to your pet? Whom do you call? Do they have keys to your home and does your pet feel comfortable with them? Do they know how to feed and care for your pets?

Another situation would be in extreme weather where you’re still at home. For example, in a snowstorm with power outages, if you’re too cold, so are your pets. It’s not safe to leave them in an unheated house. Same goes for heat waves, and the same precautions you take with humans need to be taken for pets to prevent heatstroke and dehydration. Cars and homes can heat up way too quickly.

Don’t forget, too, to keep a sticker somewhere visible on your home – say, your front door or window – alerting rescue workers or firefighters to the presence of pets in your home. Make sure to indicate what type and how many pets there are, and leave the number of your vet. If you evacuate with your pets and have time, write “evacuated” on the sticker so that workers will know not to search for your pets inside. You can get one of these stickers at many pet supply stores, at your vet’s office, or on the ASPCA website (

Bottom line: do some thinking, have a plan, and make sure to take good care of your pets – they’re depending on you!

Written by: Ashley Denham Busse
Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 13 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit or email

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