Saving the Whole Family©: Safeguarding Pets Before, During, & After a Disaster

Saving the Whole Family©: Safeguarding Pets Before, During, & After a Disaster


Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, blizzards, terrorism…

Devastating natural and man-made disasters can ravage our lives. No one is exempt from the possibility of being personally affected. You need to prepare for yourself and for your animals in case of disaster.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has developed this booklet to help you avoid having to leave your animals stranded in the event of a disaster or an evacuation.


Countless times people have been told to leave their homes for a “short time,” only to find they cannot return for days or weeks. Even disasters like gas leaks and minor flooding can keep you from tending to your animals for an extended period of time. To prevent situations such as these: TAKE YOUR ANIMALS WITH YOU.

It is best to be overly cautious when a disaster advisory or warning has been issued. Preparing ahead of time and acting quickly are the best ways to keep you and your family, including your animals, out of danger. Familiarize yourself with each type of disaster that could affect your area.

Some common hazards include:

  • Flooding
  • Fires (structure fires and wild fires)
  • Earthquake
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Other severe weather (windstorms, lightning, hail, blizzards)
  • Man-made disasters (chemical spills, nuclear incidents)
  • Terrorism

For more information about hazards

  • Be prepared for the possible disruption of services for extended periods of time, including gas, electricity, phone (cellular and land lines), internet service, and local sources of food, water and fuel.
  • Have a plan in place and practice the plan prior to a disaster. This will help you successfully evacuate and maintain the safety of your family and your animals.


Schedule an appointment to talk to your VETERINARIAN about disaster planning.

  • Assemble an animal EVACUATION KIT.
  • Develop an evacuation plan for all of your animals and practice the plan.
  • If you live in an apartment, make sure your animals are on record with management and they are able to be evacuated using the stairs. Teach dogs how to go up and down stairs to better assist rescue personnel.
  • Keep written directions to your home near your telephone. This will help you and others explain to emergency responders exactly how to get to your home.
  • Identify alternate sources of food and water.
  • Have well maintained backup generators and a source of fuel for use in food-animal production operations.
  • Keep vehicles well maintained and full of gas.
  • Keep emergency cash on hand. (Remember: ATMs may not work.)
  • If you have horses or livestock, good barn and field maintenance can reduce danger. If evacuating is impossible, decide on the safest housing option for your animals, realizing that the situation is still life threatening. Assess the stability and safety of barns and other structures, promptly remove dead trees, and minimize debris in fields and the immediate environment. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, clear away brush and maintain a defensible space around structures.


Having identification on your animals, including rabies and license tags, if applicable, may help reunite you with your animal(s) in the event you are separated. Identification should provide your name, home address, phone number(s), and the phone number of someone out-of-state with whom you will be in contact during or soon after the disaster/evacuation. If possible, include your veterinarian’s name, location, and phone number.


To decrease the risk of disease transmission, keep animals from different households separated as much as possible and use the best possible hygiene.


Make photocopies of important veterinary documents and keep them in the evacuation kit.

Vaccination records

  • Vaccinations: type and date
  • Rabies certificate, if applicable

Medical history

  • Important test results, such as Feline Leukemia/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FeLv/FIV), heartworm, equine infectious anemia (Coggins test), tuberculosis, and brucellosis
  • Medical conditions and medications (including drug name, dosage, and frequency of dosing)
  • If your animal has a microchip, a record of the microchip number


Make copies of registration information, adoption papers, proof of purchase, and microchip information and store them in the evacuation kit. List each one of your animals and their species, breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics.

Keep current photographs of your animals in the evacuation kit for identification purposes. Include some photos of you with your animals to help you reclaim your animal(s) if you are separated. Consider preparing waterproof “Lost Pet” signs with your animal’s photo, your name, and your contact information to use in case your animal is lost. If your pet has a microchip, call the company to register your pet’s information and make sure to keep that information updated


Prepare your emergency contact list now, before disaster strikes. Include addresses and 24-hour contact numbers, if available. This information can be used by you during a disaster or while evacuating and by rescue personnel responding to a disaster affecting your animals. Keep one copy near your telephone and one copy in your animal evacuation kit.


Consult your veterinarian for advice on making an animal evacuation kit and a first aid kit appropriate for your animals. Become familiar with the items in your kit and how they are used before you need to use them. Your veterinarian may recommend an animal first aid book to include in your kit. Consult your veterinarian regarding emergency first aid procedures and administration of medications.


  • Survey the area inside and outside your home to identify sharp objects, dangerous materials, dangerous wildlife, contaminated water, downed power lines, or other hazards.
  • Examine your animals closely, and contact your veterinarian immediately if you observe injuries or signs of illness.
  • Familiar scents and landmarks may have changed, and this can confuse your animals.
  • Release equines/livestock in safe and enclosed areas only. Initial release should take place during daylight hours when the animals can be closely observed.
  • Release cats, dogs, and other small animals indoors only. They could encounter dangerous wildlife and debris if allowed outside unsupervised and unrestrained.
  • Release birds and reptiles only if necessary and only when they are calm and in an enclosed room.
  • Reintroduce food in small servings, gradually working up to full portions if animals have been without food for a prolonged period of time.
  • Allow uninterrupted rest/sleep to allow animals to recover from the trauma and stress.
  • If your animals are lost, physically check animal control and animal shelters DAILY for lost animals. Some emergency response agencies may also use social media (Facebook, etc.) to post information about lost and found animals.
  • Post waterproof lost animal notices and notify local law enforcement, animal care and control officials, veterinarians, and your neighbors of any lost animals (utilize online resources for lost and found animals).
  • If your animal is lost and has a microchip, notify the microchip registry that your animal is missing.

For more detailed information on disaster preparedness for you and your pet, read the full PDF from AVMA: Saving the Whole Family©

To learn more about the team at Central Texas Animal Hospital, view our team page or contact us today to schedule an appointment! We offer veterinary services for cats and dogs in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock, TX area.