How Being Prepared in a Natural Disaster Could Save Your Dog
By: Sheryl Matthys, The Dog Expert and Founder of Leashes and Lovers
April 2009

No matter where you live, our environments may experience inclement weather such as hurricanes, tornados and/or earthquakes possibly leading to natural disasters.  To best protect our family including our dogs, have a plan of action.

During a crisis or emergency the key to remaining as calm as possible is to be prepared before the storm or disaster hits. It’s easy to think to do this someday, but take the time now to make a plan and put together an emergency Dog Survival kit.  Have the kit ready (i.e. in a duffel bag that’s easy to carry) to go at a moment’s notice and keep it accessible stored in clear plastic bin.  Here’s what it could include:

Dog Survival Kit:

•   A week’s supply of dry food in airtight containers, and/or canned food with a manual can opener and bottled water
•   Medications and a laminated copy of your vet records stored in a waterproof bag
•   First Aid Kit
•   Sturdy leash, collapsible water/food bowls, toys, blanket, towels
•   Carrier  – for smaller dogs
•   Additional ID tag with current home/cell phone numbers
•   Blank ID Tag to fill in temporary location
•   Baggies for waste
•   Hand sanitizer, paper towels, wipes, bleach
•   Information sheet of dog’s photo, name, contact info, breed, age, weight, feeding schedule, medical conditions, behavioral problems, phone numbers and addresses of: family, neighbors, vet, dog-friendly accommodations, boarding facilities in case you need to leave your dogs or seek shelter elsewhere

In advance, have your dogs microchipped as well at your local vet or shelter and keep your contact info up to date.


A good plan would be to leave before a mandatory evacuation because the best protection for your dogs is to take them with you.  With your dog and other family members in mind, even an unnecessary trip is better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you could be told to leave your pets behind.

Dogs left behind in a disaster can be injured, lost or unfortunately even killed.  If they are left home alone, they could escape or become injured by things such as broken windows.  Dogs who become loose having to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of fights, exposure, starvation, predators, and/or contaminated food/water.  And, it’s also not a good idea to leave a dog tied up outside.

If you leave in this type of situation, even for just a few hours, take your dogs with you.  Upon return, you could be kept out of the area and then you would not be able to retrieve your dogs.

As you get in the car with your dog, buckle your dog in a rear seat in a doggie belt/harness if your dog is not in a crate/carrier to prevent your stressful dog from moving about the car and inhibiting your driving.

If You Don’t Leave, Seek a Safe Place in Your Home

Make sure your dogs are indoors as soon as you hear of or spot bad weather or a dangerous situation.  Identify a safe place in your house where you can remain together and keep your dog nearby so if you have to evacuate, you won’t spend extra time trying to locate your dog.   Close the windows and doors, stay inside, and follow the instructions from your local emergency office.

If you have a safe place room – especially a basement or room with no windows you can designate as a “safe place,” ahead of time, place your emergency supplies there including an extra dog bed/crate and the Dog Supply Kit.   Also, have in the room, paper towels and bleach in case you need to do a clean up of your dogs while you wait it out. Keep a radio and flashlight located in your “safe place” and extra batteries on hand.

         While in your safe place, continue to feed your pets the food they are used to and put it out as close to the normal time as possible. If you feed canned food, reduce the normal amount by half (supplement with dry food) to reduce the possibility of diarrhea. Be sure to provide your pets with fresh water at all times.

You’re Not Home When Disaster Strikes

A likely outcome could be that something drastic happens while you’re at work or not near your house.  This is especially where a plan comes into effect.

Have arrangements with a nearby family member, friend or neighbor who is able to handle and accommodate your dogs until you can get to them.  Be sure that designated person has a key to your house, they are comfortable with your dogs and your dogs know them, that they know where your dogs are likely to be, they know where your dog survival kit is kept and has a key to your home.

Storm/Disaster Remnants

Unfortunately after a storm or disaster, your house could be in disarray whether you’ve gone to your “safe place” within your home or taken shelter elsewhere.  When you first return, don’t allow your dog to roam off-leash in your house as sharp objects could be lying around and cause an injury.   Usual items and smells may be gone, and your dog could become disoriented.   While you assess the damage, keep your dog on its leash or in its crate/carrier.

After a disaster, dogs may contine to be stressed so a routine like atmosphere is a good idea.  Be prepared that behavioral and/or health problems could result from the situation. If they do, consult your veterinarian and you may also want to seek a trainer/animal behaviorist.

Here are additional resources to help prepare your emergency plans.

* FEMA: Information for Pet Owners

*  Red Cross Animal Safety

*  AVMA Saving the whole family

*  Pets Evacuation and Transporation Standards Act (PETS)

*  Humane Society: Disaster Preparedness Resources for Pets

To report a LOST dog, call the National Lost Pet Hotline, 1-900-535-1515 (this is a fee based call).
To report a FOUND animal, call the National Found Pet Hotline, 1-800-755-8111.

Author Bio: Sheryl Matthys is The Dog Expert, a dog trainer, and Founder of Leashes and Lovers.  Sheryl talks with dog owners about how their dogs impact their lifestyle and relationships as well as doles out advice, tips and information everything dog.   In addition to a psychology degree and a master’s in Radio/TV, Sheryl is a columnist; professional actress; former TV/Radio news reporter and adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s and Indiana University. SB.   She resides in NYC with her two greyhounds and two children.

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