Mediaplanet: How can pet owners find animal-friendly evacuation shelters?

Dr. Dick Green: Most communities do not establish emergency shelters until they know where the impact will be greatest. Once a disaster occurs or is imminent, the Office of Emergency Management will post which shelters are pet friendly on their website. Pet owners can also contact their local American Red Cross to see what facilities they typically use in a disaster and how many of them are pet friendly. In Los Angeles, VCA Animal Hospitals are currently offering free boarding for pets affected by emergency or disaster through the end of the year. Call VCA to find out what facilities currently have space available. 

MP: What is a common mistake pet owners make during disasters?

DG: When responding to disasters, the ASPCA often finds that people underestimate the impact of a crisis. If you must evacuate your home, plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you think you’ll be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return home for several weeks. Always take your pets with you and bring any medications your pet needs, as well as veterinary records required for boarding. If you plan for the worst, you’ll always be prepared.

MP: What steps should pet owners take to keep pets from becoming a disaster statistic?

PROTECTING OUR PETS: “If you plan for the worst, you’ll always be prepared.”

DG: The most critical piece of advice to remember is to never leave your pet behind. Sit down as a family and brainstorm potential roadblocks you might experience by having your pet with you during evacuation and find solutions ahead of time. Create an emergency plan that addresses housing, food, medical needs and transportation with your pet in mind.

MP: What should be in every pet owners emergency kit?

  • 3-7 days worth of canned or dry food 

  • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans work well)

  • Litter or paper toweling

  • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant

  • Disposable garbage bags

  • Pet feeding dishes

  • Extra collars or harnesses, as well as an extra leash

  • Photocopies of medical records – or you can store them on your mobile device

  • A waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires. Make sure to regularly replace expired food and medicines in your kit. 

  • A week’s worth of bottled water for you and your pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)

  • A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier (ideally one for each pet)

  • A flashlight

  • A blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)

  • Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make missing posters)

MP: What’s the best way to find your pet if it goes missing during a disaster?
DG: Make sure your pet wears ID tags at all times and is microchipped. This will drastically increase your chance of finding him if he becomes lost. If he does become lost, check with your Office of Emergency Management or local animal shelter to find out where rescued or lost animals might have been taken. Create missing posters and provide them to local human and animal emergency shelters. The free, newly launched ASPCA mobile app provides a step-by-step list of actions to find a lost pet and can create a customized missing flyer to share on social media.