All Pet Owners Need to Prepare for Disaster

September 11, 2018

By Matt Bershadker, ASPCA CEO

A year ago, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever named Lady and a 12-year-old Labrador-mix named Duchess were separated from their family when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. On different days, each ended up at a temporary shelter the ASPCA had set up at an elementary school in Sour Lake and both were eventually reunited with their owner. 

Lady and Duchess and their families

Lady and Duchess were fortunate. Other pets impacted by natural disasters and emergencies are injured or lose their lives, especially when they’re left behind or their owners are unable to care for them.

During National Preparedness Month—and as we prepare our response to Hurricane Florence—stories like these illustrate how important it is for pet owners to include pets in their emergency plans, and why helping people and animals in the path of disaster is such a priority for the ASPCA. In the past few months, we’ve responded to devastating wildfires in California, an erupting volcano in Hawaii, and a steam pipe explosion in New York City. Last year alone, the ASPCA assisted more than 37,000 animals impacted by disaster situations across the country, including the string of back-to-back hurricanes.

The impact of such crises is less severe and life-threatening when owners take a few simple steps to protect their pets in advance, including:

  • Making sure all pets are microchipped AND wearing collars and tags with up-to-date identification.
  • Building portable pet emergency kits with vital items including medical records, water, pet food, medications, garbage bags and pet first aid supplies.
  • Having current photos of their pets on hand.
  • Identifying safe places and homes for pets in the event of an evacuation.
  • Remembering that any home unsafe for people is also unsafe for pets.

Other resources also provide important information, tools and experiences. In 2014, we developed the first-ever mobile app enabling pet owners to store vital veterinary records and make lifesaving decisions during natural disasters. And last month we produced a 360-degree video that puts viewers on the ground of an actual ASPCA disaster rescue operation in St. Croix in the wake of Hurricane Maria last year.

When it comes to protecting pets during disasters, owners are the true “first responders,” so please utilize and share these resources with the pet owners you know. The most effective acts of animal rescue can be taken even before an animal is in danger at all.