Pets in Natural Emergencies

Australia regularly experiences severe storms that cause flooding, as well as cyclones, extreme heat and bushfires, along with the occasional earth tremor. It’s always a good time to prepare a disaster plan for your pets. Preparing a plan ahead of time can ensure you don’t get caught out when an emergency arises.

Remember these four key points to ensure you and your pets are prepared for an emergency.

1. Emergency plan

Just as you should develop an emergency plan for you and your family, ensure you have a plan which incorporates your pets. Plan for several days (at least a week in most cases) without food or water, and ensure you always have enough non-perishable food in waterproof containers, drinking water, necessary items, such as kitty litter and any essential pet medications in the event of an evacuation or stranding.

As soon as possible, decide if you will stay or go, and make sure your pet is included in these plans. Today a greater number of evacuation centres take pets, but just in case they won’t, consider nominating some friends who could take you and your pets if needed. This plan should include making a ‘grab n go kit’.

2. Pet identification

In case you get separated from your pets, ensure their identification is current and visible. Although all dogs and cats should be microchipped, and these details kept current, it’s also important to have a name tag on your pet’s collar with your contact details, so your pets can be quickly reunited with you. Check your pet’s microchip details are up-to-date online. If you’ve forgotten your pet’s microchip number, or you can’t remember which database they are registered on, call your local council or veterinary clinic who will be able to point you in the right direction. Write your contact number on the backs or hooves of your farm pets and livestock.

3. Evacuating with pets

If you ever need to evacuate from your property, it’s likely to be a very stressful and scary time. Plan well ahead of any evacuation, particularly if you have pets. Take your pets with you to your prearranged location, such as boarding kennels or a friend’s house, if you can. Pack your ‘grab n go kit’ into your vehicle. If no kit, ensure you have their cages and supplies readily available and keep your pets in the house with you just before evacuation to prevent them from running away. If you have horses, try to evacuate them well ahead of time to a prearranged location. If in doubt, it’s always better to be cautious and evacuate early.

4. After the emergency

Before returning home with your pets, check to make sure your house and backyard will be safe. Carefully look for any live wires, contaminated water or sharp objects.

Consider keeping your pets inside for the first day or so to help them settle back into their home after the evacuation. It’s likely they will be stressed and exhausted after the event, so keeping them close and safe is prudent. If you are worried about your pet after an emergency, contact your local veterinarian who will be able to assist.

If your pet goes missing during an emergency, post on social media as well as contact your local shelters, council and emergency contacts. Remember these places will be overrun and likely under-staffed, be consistent and check daily. Ensure you have the pets details and description and as soon as it is permissible attend the shelters and pounds in person to look over the animals. Many shelter staff are not trained in accurate breed identification so don’t risk it – don’t just take their word over the phone.

For more specific information check out these pointers:

A Plan and Grab N Go Kit:

A Plan:

1. Pack Supplies & your ‘Grab & Go’ kit

2. Use easy to carry & stackable containers.

3. Plan ahead of time where the animals can stay during the evacuation and the clean up/rebuilding.

4. Make sure your pets and neighbours know each other. They may be needed urgently if you are away.

5. Secure the identification of your pets: Animals might run or hide — so you need ways to identify them.  Have collars, tags, microchips, write your phone number on larger animals, and have currents photos of them (preferably with you in the photo) for easy identification. 

6. Don’t wait about – thinking it will all be okay. Know your plan, know the best multiple routes out and have your pets accustomed to the cages or carriers. This will ease their stress

Storm Tips:

Keep your pets calm during storms:

  • Be aware of signs of anxiety  – especially if you know your pet is scared of storms.
  • Try to act as if nothing is happening and be happy and calm to set a good example.
  • Don’t tie them up or leave them out in the yard. Bring them inside into a ‘safe space’ with their bed.
  • Turn on soothing music to drown out the noise.
  • Give them their favourite treat.
  • Chronic storm phobia sufferers should see a vet or behaviourist for treatment or training options.

High Fire Danger & Bushfire Tips:

If you are leaving early with your pets, remember to prepare your pets as well.

  • Always have bedding, food and water ready to go and make sure you can transport them – always put your own safety before the safety of your pets.
  • Know where you could house your pets if you decide to leave early. This may include boarding kennels, a relative/friend’s place or you may be able to keep them with you.
  • If you choose to keep your pets with you, confine them early. Pets are safest inside a secure room, on a lead or in carriers. Make sure they have plenty of water to drink.
  • Have towels and woollen blankets available to cover and protect your pets.
  • Make sure your pets can be identified easily. Microchip your animals and include your details such as your phone number on collars, on the backs of your horses & livestock.
  • Discuss with neighbours about protecting your pets if you are not at home during a bushfire. Keep in regular contact with your neighbours during the fire danger period to let them know your plans.
  • Keep your Grab N Go Kit for pets within easy reach so you are ready to leave early.
  • Practice how you will move your pets if you leave. It takes longer than you think.

Bushfire tips:

  • Animals do not cope with smoke. Keep them indoors if possible.
  • Aviaries and outdoor enclosures can be covered with dampened towels or hessian bags to absorb smoke & keep the animals cooler.
  • If fire approaches follow any emergency services instructions.
  • Avoid loading horses (or livestock) as fire is approaching. If staying, open all internal property gates, so animals can move away from immediate danger, but never open gates into roads or other vehicle access ways.
  • With horses, remove halters and rugs. Ensure your mobile number is written on their backs (use auction crayon for this) so that you can be contacted should animals find themselves re-located away from home.
  • Check animals feet after fire passes through, as feet are often burned on hot ground. Have first aid supplies ready.

Pets in Heatwaves:

Check out our species by species breakdown of how to keep your pets protected during heatwaves here: