Your Emergency Pet Action Plan
You never know what's around the next corner, and disasters can happen at any time.
When it comes to evacuations a common trend is that pet owners have no plan for if they need to leave their homes with their pet, meaning evacuations are slowed.
Two of the most important things to ensure you have are a pet carrier and up-to-date vaccinations for all your pets. Many insurance companies won't cover the expenses of temporary boarding in kennels or catteries if your cats and/or dogs do not have up-to-date vaccinations. Many catteries and kennels won't accept pets unless they are fully vaccinated.
If you have pets, here's how to be prepared...
- Ensure you always have enough pet food to hand (so that they are not subject to a sudden change in diet if evacuated). 7-10 days is good as supply lines to shops may be disrupted during an emergency.
- Keep some dry food and large water bowls so if you do need to be evacuated for several days and you cannot take the animal with you to start off with, water and food can be left somewhere safe, high up and dry in an emergency.
- Make sure they are fully up to date with vaccinations (this must include a yearly booster) and you have the card or certificate to hand. At the time of the 2015 floods, our charity was asked to take in a large number of unvaccinated pets. This created a potential health issue as many illnesses are airborne so having lots of pets together is a huge risk.
- Get your dogs and cats microchipped and keep the chip registration up to date if you move (this is the law for dogs and will be law for cats soon). That way if your animals are separated from you during floods or events, you can easily be reunited. Register any ongoing medical conditions with the chip database so your pet, if rescued, can get its medication.
- Make sure your dogs are collar-tagged, you may want to also collar and tag your cat in in the immediate period prior to any known storms or emergency just to be safe.
- For cats or other smaller animals – have a carrier! The lack of a carrier for cats severely delayed many evacuations and held up the emergency services from reaching other residents more quickly. Make sure the carrier is secure, all the door clips are working, and get the cat used to going in and out of it.
- For dogs – leads, coats, collar and some chews and toys to alleviate boredom. A folding dog crate is even better.
- Always have enough of any of your pet’s medication to last at least a week – disasters won't wait until your vet practice opens.
- For horses or animals that cannot be brought into the home such as livestock, check their shelter to ensure that they will be safe from the elements and flying debris.
- Have a plan with friends or relatives for whether they could help by housing your animal for you in the immediate aftermath of the events for a few days.
- Have a good photo of your pet, ideally electronically to send by phone or email to identify them.
What to do if disaster does strike?
- During any local emergency or evacuation, it is likely that the human emergency services will coordinate the evacuation of animals with the RSPCA. So keep their number handy for emergencies – it is 0300 1234999 (this is the national number rather than the local clinic).
- If you know that your animal has been evacuated by emergency services, the RSPCA or us, contact us straight away to let us know, this will save everyone additional work in trying to trace you.
- NEVER leave pets behind. Review your evacuation plans before the storm and know a safe place where your pets can go if you need to evacuate. Remember they are totally dependent on you if in a crate.
- Secure exits and cat doors so that your pet doesn't go out in a storm or flood. After the storm or flood, displaced objects and fallen trees can disorient pets and sharp debris could harm them.
- Do not tranquilize your animals - they'll need to be fully with-it to adapt to any journeys or changes.
- Give animals time to become re-oriented. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and cause a pet to become confused or lost. If you have been evacuated for an extended time, then when you return home you will need to keep your cat indoors for a fortnight or so afterwards before allowing them outside.
- Keep children and animals away from hazards such as downed power lines and water that may be contaminated.
For more useful information, take a look at our 'pet stressors' page to find out how you can support your pets during and after stressful scenarios.