Emergency Planning for Pets & Livestock

dog and cat collage
Any kind of emergency, whether it’s a man-made disaster or a natural one, can affect not only you but your pets. Start planning now, before a disaster, on how you will take care of your pets.

Planning in advance, when things are calm, is the best time to plan how you will care for your pet during an emergency. One step to take is to prepare a pet emergency kit, items kept together to be used to care for your pet whether you shelter in place or evacuate.

Emergency Pet Kit

Create an emergency pet kit with these items at a minimum:
  • Pet food to last at least three days, sealed in airtight, waterproof containers.
  • Bottled water specifically for your pets to last at least three days.
  • Medications.
  • Veterinary records.
  • Other records such as registration information, adoption papers, and vaccination documents.
  • Collars with ID tags, harnesses, and leashes.
  • Cat litter and pan.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Food dishes.
  • First aid kit.
  • Crates or other pet carriers
  • Toys, treats, and bedding for your pets.
  • A recent picture of you and your pet together.
If your pets are outside, and a dangerous storm is approaching, bring them inside well before the storm hits. Never leave a pet outside loose or chained during a storm.

You may want to plan with neighbors, relatives, and friends to make sure someone is available to care for our pets during a disaster in case you can’t get home. Make sure your back-up person knows where your pet emergency kit is.

If you must evacuate, take your pets with you unless you have no other alternative. Leaving them alone at home places them in danger, and they may not survive.

Do research before a disaster to find out whether or not local shelters will accept animals. Find alternatives to shelters, such as hotels or motels that allow pets. Consider making arrangements with a friend to take in you and your pets if it’s necessary to leave your home.

For more information about emergency preparedness for your pets, see “Pet and Animal Emergency Planning” on the Ready.gov website.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
The following are tips to keep livestock safe and healthy during emergency events:
  • Ensure you have adequate supplies at all times to feed, water, and care for animals for extended periods. Have stored water in easily accessible locations in case of power outages.
  • Have a record of all pets and livestock on your property and ensure each animal has a sturdy identification tag.
  • Keep proof of ownership for all pets/livestock; make copies of this information and file it in an easily accessible, yet secure location. 
  • Have readily available, extra cans/bags of pet food, pet carriers, portable water/water bowls, sanitation supplies (plastic bags, scoops, kitty litter, paper towels, etc.) and bedding for animals. Keep a list on-hand of hotels/motels that allow pets in case it is necessary to travel with a small animal. 
  • Keep a basic first-aid kit as well as basic tools in each barn/shelter; have a means of communicating (cell phone, mobile device, etc.) if working on-site with animals.
  • Ensure the entrance to the farm property is clearly marked with the proper 911 address.
  • Keep a supply of leashes, halters, cages, leads, and other equipment necessary to secure and move animals quickly; keep a "quick supply" of feed available to lure animals into carriers, trailers, barns, or safe areas.
  • Keep sanitation supplies on-hand in barns and out buildings. 
  • Determine the location of all shelters, barriers/fences and water sources the property; plan how animals can reach water and shelter should any area be impacted. Plan how to move animals to higher ground during floods, sheltered areas during severe weather, or to sufficient water sources during extreme heat or drought.
Livestock Composite
  • Plan animal evacuation routes in advance and determine what equipment and supplies would be needed to haul, shelter, feed and water displaced animals.
  • Work with neighboring farmers or farmers in surrounding areas to coordinate transporting and sheltering of animals if a respective farm property is impacted by a disaster. 
  • Create a list of contact numbers including neighbors, veterinarians, poison control offices, local animal control, county extension services, farm suppliers, and trailer resources; keep copies of this list in frequently used farm vehicles and in easily accessible locations on your property. For convenience, place emergency contact lists in clear plastic coverings to protect content from rain/severe weather. 
  • If possible, install a hand pump to ensure access to water and have large, water-safe containers on-hand in case of power outages.
  • If you have hazardous chemicals or pesticides on-site, be sure to properly store and label chemical containers; place any potentially hazardous materials in a secure area away from exposure to water and heat.
Sheltering Animals on Your Property
Be prepared to shelter animals on-site, if evacuation is not an option. Determine if allowing livestock to roam freely will minimize risks or if sheltering in a building is the best option. If a farm property meets the following criteria, the Humane Society of the United States recommends permitting animals to remain in pastures:
  • No non-native trees, which uproot easily
  • No overhead power lines or poles
  • No sources that could cause flying debris
  • No barbed-wire fencing
  • Sufficient space to avoid running water or debris.
If Evacuating Animals
  • In a slow evolving disaster (approaching hurricane, in the path of a potential fire line, etc.) make plans for evacuation beforehand, allowing for at least 72 hours to properly secure, transport, and re-establish animals at a determined sheltering site. Be aware that high winds preceding storms can cause dangerous wind gusts that can impact hauling trailers; be cognizant that precipitation can create slippery conditions, not only on roadways, but on loading ramps, in hauling trailers, and on other surface areas, creating the potential of falls for both livestock owners and animals.
  • Determine evacuation routes in advance, driving away from potential hazards. Coordinate which routes you plan to take with family members, or others who are assisting with the evacuation process. Have an emergency "check-in" contact should you get separated.
  • Seek assistance from experienced livestock handlers.
  • Be careful not to let children come too close to driving/handling areas as animals may be restless and react to unfamiliar situations and environments.
  • Ensure you have all the supplies needed to care for animals for an extended period of time (feed, buckets, shovels, blankets, medications, fuel and generators, if necessary). 
  • Keep animals in familiar groupings to minimize their stress levels as well as aid in counting and identifying efforts.
Sources & Resources
Humane Society of the United States