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Disaster relief for your pets

Tips from team of pet care experts

Yesterday southern England and Wales were devastated by severe weather and floods. With more bad weather forecast, it is a good idea to be prepared.

Floods and other natural disasters are emergencies for people, but they are also emergencies for pets. One can never plan completely for the unexpected, but a disaster plan that includes provision for your pets can help take some of the anxiety out of it.

Step 1. Make provision for your pets in case of an emergency evacuation

If you have to evacuate your home, you should always take your pets with you. It might seem safer to leave them in the house in a 'safe' location with plenty of food and water, but it really isn't.  You won't be there to monitor conditions, and your safe area could become dangerous as the weather changes.  Your pet will become very stressed at being 'abandoned' and take extreme measures to escape.

Give some thought as to how to evacuate your pets when you aren't or can't get home: try and identify a neighbour or pet-sitter who could move your pets for you, and make them familiar with your disaster plan.

Many emergency shelters cannot take domestic pets, so it is important to identify somewhere you can take your pet in an emergency. Possibilities are:

  • Pet-friendly hotels outside your immediate area. Given some warning, you could book you and your pet straight in.
  • Friends or relatives outside your area who could shelter your pet.
  • Kennels which can provide emergency shelter for animals.
  • Local rescue centres which may be able to shelter animals in an emergency.  However, use this option only as a last resort: they will probably have their hands full of animals which have been abandoned, displaced or injured in the storm. has extensive databases of pet-friendly hotels and kennels in the 'Your Territory' section, so make that your first stop in making your disaster plan.

Step 2. Prepare an emergency disaster kit

If you have to evacuate your pet, keeping a travel bag full of essential supplies will help you act quickly, and reduce stress for your pet.  You should include the following:

  • Identification and medical information on your pet (in a waterproof container), including the name and number of your vet, feeding schedules, any necessary medication, and a record of any behaviour problems or habits.
  • Some food and fresh water, feeding bowls, and if you have a cat, a litter tray and litter.  A tin-opener is a good idea too!
  • Sturdy leash, harness or carrier.
  • Some familiar objects or toys, and a bed or blanket if you have room.

Make sure your pet has plenty of identification attached to it's collar or carrier, including an emergency contact number for you.  And, if you haven't microchipped your pet, today is a good time to get it done.  It really can make all the difference if your pet escapes or gets lost.

Step 3. Use advance warnings to be prepared

While no one could predict the severity of yesterday's floods and gales, weather forecasters certainly predicted that a bad storm was on its way, and could accurately predict when it would hit.  Advance warning like this gives you time to put your plan into action before it becomes an emergency:

  • Confirm your emergency shelter arrangements.
  • Double-check that your disaster kit is ready and easy to access.
  • Bring all your pets indoors where you can find them quickly
  • If you have rabbits or other animals in outdoor hutches or pens, bring them inside so they have adequate shelter from high winds and rain.

Finally, even if you can shelter your pets in your own home, remember that severe weather and the interruptions caused by it can be very stressful for your pet. The most good-natured or obedient pet may turn aggressive or behave in unpredictable ways.  Never leave your pet unattended outside your home, even for a few minutes. And if you must take them out, make sure they are secure on a leash or in a carrier - they will feel more secure too.

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