Access & Functional Needs: Pets


Special Needs

The key to survival during a disaster, crisis or emergency is to be as prepared as much as possible before the disaster hits. 

Take the time to make a plan and assemble an emergency kit for you and your pet. By taking these steps now, you will greatly increase your pet’s chances of survival.

Prepare for Everyday Emergencies

These are example scenarios that could happen to you at any time, anywhere in the country or region. Prepare yourself for these events, and if a large disaster should ever hit, you will be ready and know what to do:

  • The roads are icy, traffic is a mess and you decide to stay with a friend instead of risking the drive home from school or work.
    • Who will check on your cat and feed her?
  • While you were out running errands, a propane truck overturned on the street near your neighborhood and you are not allowed to go home. A police officer tells you the electricity to your neighborhood was shut off.
    • How can you make sure your birds stay warm?
  • Your mother-in-law has had a heart attack and you are going to meet your wife at the hospital. It may be a long night.
    • Who will give your dog his medicine?  

The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following actions to make sure your pets are taken care of when everyday events prevent you from taking care of your pets:

  • Create a pet emergency/disaster kit and place it in a prominent place where your neighbor can find it.
  • Find a trusted neighbor and give them a key to your house or barn. Make sure this person is comfortable and familiar with your pets.
  • Make sure the neighbor knows your pets' whereabouts and habits, so they will not have to waste precious time trying to find or catch them.
  • If the emergency involves evacuation, make sure the neighbor would be willing to take your pets and has access to the appropriate carriers and leashes. Plan to meet at a prearranged location.
  • If you use a pet sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance..

During the Disaster

If ordered to evacuate, take your pets with you. The single most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to take them with you when you evacuate. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. Animals left inside your home can escape through storm-damaged areas, such as broken windows. Animals turned loose to fend for themselves are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or accidents.

Leaving dogs tied or chained outside in a disaster is a death sentence.

  • If you leave, even if you think you may only be gone for a few hours, take your animals. When you leave, you have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets.
  • Leave early - don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. An unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you may be told to leave your pets behind.

If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Be sure to close your windows and doors, stay inside and follow the instructions from your local emergency management office.

  • Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say there is an imminent threat. Keep pets under your direct control; if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.
  • If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet's crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies.
  • If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door, or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape.
  • Listen to the radio periodically and don't come out until you know it's safe.

After the Disaster

Planning and preparation will help you survive the disaster, but your home may be a very different place afterward, whether you have taken shelter at home or elsewhere.

  • Don't allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
  • While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and keep cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, they could escape and become lost.
  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be ready for behavioral problems that may result from the stress of the situation.
    • If behavioral problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.

"Reprinted by permission of The Humane Society of the United States."


Related Information



Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

ADA Accessibility | Website Accessibility
Awards | FOIA | Mobile | Using this Site | Web Disclaimer & Privacy Policy | Get Adobe Reader
Official site of the County of Fairfax, Virginia, © Copyright 2013

Website Feedback Website Feedback    Globe with various flags representing Web site language translations   Language Translations

Return to Graphic Version