What to do with your pet in an emergency situation

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There may come a time when an emergency strikes and the family needs to leave home immediately, such as during an evacuation for a natural disaster or when a medical event or other family emergency happens. In these situations, it would be helpful to know how to take care of your pet in the best way.

Here's everything you need to prepare and take action during emergencies.


Write up a plan. Place it on the fridge or somewhere else prominent so everyone can refer to it when the time comes.

Contain your animals early. If you hear of a pending natural disaster or possible evacuation, prepare by placing your pet in their crate or carrier, or contain them in a room so they are close at hand when you need to leave. This may help prevent them from hiding or running away due to fear or stress, as animals sense changes in their environment. If they do escape, its always handy to place a GPS tracker on their collar so you know where they are at all times.

Arrange identification for pets. Provide identification for your pet with a visible marker such as a collar and council registration tag. They can also be permanently identified with a microchip. Make sure your contact details are correct with both your local council and your microchip registry (include several alternative contact numbers in case you can't be reached).

Access to water. If you plan to leave your pet for a little while at home, organise a water supply that will last them several days, even if you expect to be home that evening. Arrange water containers that are unspillable.

Emergency backup carer. Choose someone you trust, and who may be familiar with your pet, to be able to leave your pet with to take care of.

Temporary housing. It might be worth looking into some animal shelters, boarding kennels, animal shelters or friends that would be prepared to temporarily house and care for your pets in case of an emergency. Make a list of these and their contact numbers to have handy. Perhaps place them in your emergency kit.

Prepare an emergency kit. If you need to leave in an emergency and at short notice, it will be extremely handy to have a kit with about three to seven days’ supplies all ready to be transported with your pet so they can be easily identified and have all they need for their temporary stay. Animal Welfare Victoria has provided a list of what this kit may contain:

  • Food and water containers, with enough food and water for at least three days.
  • Leads for dogs, along with a chain suitable for tethering if possible.
  • A cage, carrier or container for each small pet for transportation and housing. Make sure the cage is big enough and has a litter tray that suits the animal.
  • Clearly label each cage or carrier with your contact details.
  • An information list including your name, address and phone numbers, your pet's name, description and care requirements and a photo of you and your pet.
  • Pet first aid items and essential medications.
  • Pet medical history, vaccination certificate and veterinary contacts.
  • Blankets, towels and bedding.
  • Pet registration, identification and licensing records.
  • Litter for cats or other small animals.

Evacuating with pets

Whether it’s a bushfire or flood, leave as early as possible as the situations can change quickly and without warning.

Consider taking your pet and their emergency kit to a safer place if you need to go to work on days of high fire danger or flood. This is in case you may not be allowed to return home.

On high-risk days, leave your pets inside, as they may get scared and run away if outside during thunderstorms, for instance.

Remember that no matter what, pets shouldn’t be left in vehicles.

If you have opted to send your pet to a kennel or other temporary shelter, let them know you are coming as early as possible as emergency accommodation may be very limited.

If you are heading to an evacuation centre, they may have facilities for pets, however, call in advance to find out as you may need to consider other options if they aren’t suitable. When there, try to keep them in a calm and quiet area of the centre.

If pets are remaining on the property

It is always safer for animals to go with you if you have to evacuate. However, if you can't take your pets (or larger animals such as horses) with you and they need to be left behind during an emergency, Animal Welfare Victoria advises leaving them in a secure area inside your home or in a place where they will have the best protection possible.

Other advice Animal Welfare Victoria provides for such a situation includes:

  • Don't tie animals outside or keep them in a vehicle unattended.
  • Leave at least 10 days' supply of water. Fill multiple bowls — don't leave just one container as it may spill.
  • You can fill sinks and bathtubs too. If your toilet bowl is free of chemical disinfectants, leave the toilet seat up to provide animals with one more source of water.
  • Leave at least four to five days' supply of dry food. Canned food will go off quickly.
  • If flooding is a threat, ensure your pet has access to elevated areas that will allow them to stay out of the water.

Practice emergency plan

Practising an emergency scenario may help you refine your plan and prevent you and your pets from panicking in the case of a real emergency.

Here's an example emergency checklist provided by Animal Welfare Victoria.

  • Have you included your pets, horses and livestock in your emergency plan?
  • Are your pets identified with a collar and council registration tag as well as a microchip?
  • Are your contact details current and correct in the microchip database and with your council?
  • Are your pet's vaccinations up to date (you will need a current vaccination certificate for your pet to stay at a kennel or cattery)?
  • Have you prepared a pet emergency plan and disaster kit and placed it in a prominent place? Does it include food, water, bowls, leads, blankets or bedding, medication, relevant documentation and a travel cage where necessary?
  • Have you identified where you will evacuate your pets to? Have you checked with your local council about evacuation options that include facilities for animals?
  • Have you determined which evacuation routes are available and safe in an emergency?
  • If you cannot take your pets with you, have you left them in a protected space and provided at least 10 days' supply of water, in multiple unspillable containers, and left at least four to five days' supply of dry food?
Tracey Cheung
Written by
Tracey Cheung

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