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Prepare Your Pets for a Disaster

By: Christina Catlett, M.D., Associate Director of CEPAR and Director of the Johns Hopkins Go Team


Credit: iStock

Do you have fur babies or other pets? Have you ever thought about what you would do with them during a major disaster, such as a hurricane, flood or tornado?

As a disaster response expert, I spent many weeks in the field last year with Maryland’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MD-1 DMAT) and the Johns Hopkins Go Team responding to the devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. We provided medical care to people who had lost everything—their house, their possessions and even their livelihoods. But what struck me was the number of victims who grieved the most for the loss of their beloved pets who had been left behind after a storm. As the proud mom of two rescue dogs, this made me think twice about my own level of preparedness.

During a major disaster, you may be asked or forced to evacuate on short notice. Hopefully you have already prepared supplies for you and/or your family. You also need to have supplies ready to go for your four-legged or feathered friends, such as:

  • At least a three-day supply of pet food in a watertight container.
     
  • At least a three-day supply of water specifically for the pet(s).
     
  • Leash and collar with ID and rabies tags.
     
  • Crate or pet carrier.
     
  • Immunization records and registration/adoption papers.

Some other items to consider:

  • Since Hurricane Katrina, evacuation shelters have become more animal-friendly. If your local shelter does not accept pets, they should be able to refer you to a location that does.
     
  • Make sure you have a contingency care plan, such as a trusted neighbor, for your pets in case you are at work or away from the house during a disaster.
     
  • Never leave a pet outside or chained up during a disaster.
     
  • Have your pet microchipped in case it is lost during an event.

The Department of Homeland Security offers information on its website, along with a helpful list to prepare pets for emergencies.