Weather Forecast


Consider pets in family disaster plan

Goodhue County Health and Human Resources emergency preparedness coordinator Susan Johnson poses with her “grandpuppy.” Johnson says it is important to include pets when making disaster plans for the safety of animals, owners and first responders.

By Susan Johnson

Emergency preparedness coordinator, Goodhue County Health and Human Services

You have been getting ready for years now, listening to the messaging that has come out about being prepared for a disaster.

You have your food and water supplies; you learned how to text instead of call during an emergency; and you have practiced your family drills and are ready to roll.

But wait a minute. What about your dog? Your cat? Your parakeet? Your potbellied pig? Have you made plans for them?

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 taught the nation that residents who are asked to evacuate will not even consider leaving if they cannot take their pets with them. They are more than willing to put their own lives at stake — and often first responders’ lives — rather than leave their pets.

The chances of you and your pet surviving an emergency such as a flood, fire or severe storm depends on the planning you do today.

Many organizations have taken the lead in helping individuals and families prepare for their pets in time of a disaster. They suggest:

-- Make sure your pet’s shots are up to date and their identification tags are on. Information regarding age, breed and coloring are good to have written down.

You also might want to consider a microchip as a permanent ID and carry a photo of you and your pet together in case you get separated.

-- During a disaster, bring your pets indoors immediately. Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will isolate themselves if they are afraid.

-- Do not leave pets outside or tied up during a storm. By bringing them in early you can help stop them from running away.

-- Plan to separate your dogs and cats, even if they usually get along. The anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally.

-- In the first days after a disaster, keep your pets on a leash and maintain close contact. If landmarks are gone, pets could get confused.

If you need to evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. In many cases they may not survive alone and can be difficult to find if you leave and come back.

However, some public evacuation shelters may not allow pets. It is important to have a back-up plan, such as an agreement with friends or relatives outside the affected area who can take you or your pets in.

Some animal shelters and veterinarians provide emergency shelter for pets during a disaster as well. It is also good to keep a list of pet-friendly hotels nearby.

By planning ahead, we can not only help ourselves, but we can make sure our furry and feathery friends are safe, too.

Additional information, including how to care for exotic pets in a disaster, can be found on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to website at

Be ready to grab and go

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends pet owners keep a “Go-Kit” in case of emergencies. It should be clearly labeled and easy to carry.

Items to consider keeping in or near your pack include:

• Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to pack, or visit the ASPCA store to buy one online)

• Three to seven days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)

• Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)

• Litter or paper toweling

• Liquid dish soap and disinfectant

• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up

• Pet feeding dishes

• Extra collar or harness and an extra leash

• Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit; otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)

• At least seven days' worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)

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

• Flashlight

• Blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)

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

• Especially for cats: Pillowcase or EvackSack, toys and scoopable litter

• Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys and a week's worth of cage liner.

Susan Johnson is an emergency preparedness coordinator with the Goodhue County Health and Human Services department.