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Pet Preparedness


Pre-Planning For Your Pet Disaster Needs

In the event of a disaster in San Francisco, your plan for your pet's safety will allow the City's emergency resources to concentrate on hot spots and other priorities. Taking the time to plan for the safety of your pet in an event could make a difference in human and animal lives saved.

In the event of a disaster or sudden mandatory evacuation order, you need to be prepared not only to gather the immediate needs you and your family members will require, but also those of your pets.  If you must evacuate DON’T LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND as they most likely will not survive, and if they are lucky enough to do so, you may not be able to locate them when you return.

Pre-planning with a solid Pet Disaster Plan, just as you have your family disaster plan, is the best option to get you ready and going should the worst situation come to pass.  Here are some preliminary steps to think about:


  • Ask trusted neighbors to check on your pet in an emergency if you may not be home at the time.  Discuss evacuation and re-unification locations with your trusted neighbor should the situation warrant or require that.
  • Prepare and maintain a separate “go kit” for your animals which will include everything you need to care for them for at least 72 hours – maybe longer. This would include identification, food, medication, sanitary needs, safety needs, contact information for yourself and your vet, and so on. 
  • The City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) has a plan in place to accommodate all displaced persons and their animals during a time of disaster, however the more you can do on your own to help the process along, the less strain you will place on the disaster response workers and resources.
  • If you can re-locate your animals with a family member, friend or boarding environment outside of the disaster area until you are able to return to your home or a more stable situation for your pet, that is often the best option for all concerned.
  • Human mass shelters DO NOT ACCEPT animals within the shelters themselves for a number of health and safety reasons, however the CCSF disaster plan calls for the establishment of animal shelters adjacent to some human mass shelters.  These animal shelters will only accept cats and dogs, and only if the pets owner is currently housed at the human shelter and agrees to assume full responsibility for the care, feeding, cleaning and exercise of the pet while it remains in the animal shelter. 
  • Pets other than cats and dogs that require sheltering will be housed at the primary CCSF Animal Care and Control brick and mortar facility within the city or at alternative suitable shelters based on the type of pet and the most appropriate care facility available.
  • Keep collars, current licenses, inoculation and vaccination records and up-to-date tags on your pet readily available as these will help you evacuate your pet and will be needed by the shelter staff to accept and house your pet. Include a photograph of you with your pet to aid in identification and ownership establishment if your pet is found as a stray or runaway following a disaster or emergency.
  • Have your pet micro chipped if available as this speeds up the registration process at shelters and also helps to identify and re-unite lost or injured pets with their owners. Remember to register your micro chip with the relevant manufacturer’s database and keep the database records updated if you move home or addresses.
  • Animals in Emergencies for Owners This 27-minute video, developed by the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) /FEMA, is intended to help pet and livestock owners prepare to protect their animals during emergencies.


Preparing Your Pet For The Disaster

A sudden and unexpected disaster or emergency evacuation may place you and your pet under considerable stress, and if you pet is not normally secured within a cage or tank, fear and disorientation may make it difficult to secure your pet for prompt evacuation.   It is therefore recommended that you prepare your pet for such a situation by acclimatizing them to the most effective method you may have to use for evacuation during an emergency.


  • Cats and dogs often enjoy finding hiding places that protect them from prying eyes and others – so a good technique is to acclimatize them to a pet carrier as a normal place for them to sleep, hide or play during non emergency times.  Placing a favorite blanket, toy or food treats in the carrier on a regular basis may help to encourage your pet to seek the carrier out when it is scared. At the very least, it may make it a much easier task to get your pet into the carrier when you really need to.
  • If you just can’t get your pet into its carrier, swaddling it with a large and thick towel may be a quick and effective way to get a small pet out of the house in an emergency.  Be sure to cover its face as this typically calms pets down and prevents them from fighting and struggling.  Transfer your pet to a proper or more secure container as soon as you can. Swaddling your smaller pet to carry them or a regular basis will help make the towel carry method much more effective when the time comes.
  • In a pinch, a pillow case may be used to scoop up your frightened cat or miniature dog and quickly get both of you out of the house in an emergency.  If you play with your pet and the pillow case ahead of time, again this will make it much easier to use the pillow case carry much more effectively when the time comes.  
  • With larger dogs or cats which are too big to easily get into a carrier or carry, you may have to rely on quickly applying a harness or leash to help get them out of harms way.  The more often they are exposed to such harnesses and leashes, the easier it will be to use them when the time comes.


Pet Go Kit

  • Food, water and treats for up to 7 days (treats can help relax an otherwise frightened pet)
  • Identification tags and collars
  • Non-spill bowls, manual can opener and plastic lid
  • Litter box, litter, plastic bags, puppy pads
  • Medications, important medical records
  • Contact info for emergency veterinary care and animal shelters and list of vaccinations, inoculations your pet has had as well as list of medical conditions or medications your pet is on
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Leashes, harnesses, sturdy carry containers
  • Photo of each pet with you and your pet shown (helps for identification and proof of ownership if required)
  • Long term confinement supplies i.e. cables, stakes, expandable poles, chains, tarpaulin etc.
  • Leather handling gloves and medical barrier gloves for handling your pet if injured or accidents occur
  • “Frisbee” to use as toy and feeding dish for dogs, and some similar toys your pet may enjoy playing with as a distraction or to expend nervous energy

Pet First Aid Kit

  • Any special medication your pet needs on a regular or occasional basis
  • Copies of your pets vaccinations, inoculations, medical history and current medical conditions
  • Large and small bandages (self adhering bandages are great)
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Antiseptic creams/ointments
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting and clean wounds)
  • Elastic tape
  • Eye and ear wash solution
  • K-Y Jelly (water soluble)


If Your Pet Is Lost During A Disaster

  • As soon as possible, go to or call your nearest animal shelter to report your missing pet. 
  • When it is safe to do so, return to your home or neighborhood and post signs and pictures of your lost pet with instructions on how any finder may contact you.
  • Leaving some of your pets favorite food and some water in a location close to your home may encourage a frightened and hiding pet to come out to eat or drink. Pets can remain hidden and afraid for days after a disaster.
  • Call on anyone working in the area or still living in the area to ask them if they have noticed your pet, and to ask them to watch out for your pet. Be sure to tell them how to contact you.
  • Return as frequently as possible to continue your search of the animal shelters and your neighborhood.

If You Find A Lost Pet

  • Note as many details about the pet, any visible injuries or unique features that may assist identification and not the time and location you observed the animal.
  • If the animal will allow you to approach and care for it, take it to the nearest shelter as soon as you are able to.  Take extreme care when approaching any animal following a disaster as even your own pet can become unpredictable due to fear or pain. If you have any concerns or the animal appears injured, allow professional animal care responders to take care of the animal.


If You MUST Evacuate Without Your Pet

  • Post a highly visible sign in a window or in multiple locations to let rescue workers know how many pets and what type of pets are in your home.
  • Note the date you evacuated on the sign, and provide the location you expect to be evacuating to if you know this.
  • Leave plenty of water in a large open container that cannot be tipped over for your pets during your time away.
  • Leave plenty of food in timed feeders (your local pet supply store should have these.)  These will prevent your pet from overeating.
  • DO NOT tie up or cage your pet when you evacuate. Their chances of survival are greater if they can avoid falling debris or escape your home if the need and opportunity arises.


Pet Resources

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