I originally wrote this post in April 2012:

May 12, 2012 is National Animal Emergency Preparedness Day. No one wants to think about horrible things that might put your family and pets at risk. But that the point of having the special day. To make us think. Hurricane Katrina taught us that disaster response for humans has to include their pets. The PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) Act was a legislative response to those lessons. It is still up to us individually to prepare for potential risks involving our pets.

I confess to a recently acquired appreciation for this myself. I signed up to be a volunteer responder for the newly-formed Geauga County Animal Community Emergency Response Team (A-CERT). Among the many things I learned from this training is the clear and unequivocal lesson that if I am to help others, I had better have taken care of my own family and pets. So I followed the recommended framework for animal emergency preparedness, and I can tell you that it is easy to do and provides great of peace of mind.

Make a Plan

It all starts with a blank sheet of paper. On that paper, answer these questions:

  • If you have to evacuate, where will you and your pets go? Will family or friends be able to house you and your pets? For how long? Do you know what nearby hotels will accept pets?
  • If you have to shelter at home, do you have sufficient supplies to take care of your pets for a while?
  • What if you can’t care for your pets yourself – who is your back-up?
  • Are you able to transport all of your pets safely?
  • If you and your pets are separated (in separate shelters, for example), how will people know they are your pets?
  • How will you ensure their comfort, nutritional and medical needs are met?

This exercise helps you focus your planning efforts by recognizing where the gaps are.

Get Ready Now

A plan is great, but if it stays on paper, it isn’t much use when an emergency strikes. You probably won’t have much time to prepare in an emergency situation. Here are some steps you can take now:

  • Assemble a pet emergency kit: food, water, bowls, can opener, cat litter, current photos and veterinary records for each pet, extra medications, collars with ID and leashes, cleaning supplies, and comfort items. See Resources to access a complete list.
  • Assemble a pet first aid kit: supplies to treat injuries and ailments. You can purchase kits already assembled or see Resources below to build your own kit. Consult your veterinarian for additional ideas specific to your pets.
  • Talk to family and friends who may be able to house you and your pets in an emergency. Be sure they are ready, willing and able to accommodate you.
  • Research hotels in your area that will accept pets and keep those phone numbers handy. (See Resources)
  • Acquire additional crates or carriers if you do not have one for each pet.

Invest the modest time and money now to prepare and enjoy some peace of mind.


Ken Folsom, Deputy Director of the Geauga County Department of Emergency Services, and director of the A-CERT team, encourages anyone with questions to call the department at 440-279-2170. Better yet, come out to PAWS 4 A Cause on May 12 at the Polo Field. The A-CERT team will be there answering questions and distributing literature. A speaker from the Humane Society of the United States will offer helpful information on pet emergency preparedness. We’ll see you there!

Resources at your fingertips

Pet emergency preparedness: http://www.ready.gov/document/preparing-your-pets-emergencies-makes-sense
Pet emergency kit: http://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/PrinterFriendly_Pets.pdf

Pet first aid kit: http://www.avma.org/firstaid/supplies.asp

Find pet friendly hotels: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/animal_rescue/tips/pet_disaster_plan.html#Find_a_Safe_Place_Ahead_of_Time

Other useful links: http://awic.nal.usda.gov/companion-animals/emergencies-and-disaster-planning


Carol Peter is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Cold Nose Companions, LLC Dog Training. She offers private in-home training for people and their dogs throughout Geauga County. Carol focuses on resolving problem behaviors and teaching good household manners using positive reinforcement training and behavior modification methods. She can be reached at carol@coldnosecompanions.com.


©2012, Carol Peter, Cold Nose Companions, LLC