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Pet Preparedness – Plan for All in an Emergency Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Pet Preparedness – Plan for All in an Emergency

Emergencies come in many forms, and each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe. The best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared. In recognition of National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day, staff from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter and the Office of Emergency Management will be available on May 8 at 11 a.m. to answer all of your questions to help you protect your pets when the unexpected happens.

Kristen Auerbach : Welcome! Today is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day and we're here to answer all of your questions about protecting pets and other animals during an emergency or disaster scenario.  I'm Kristen Auerbach, the director of communications and outreach at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter here with Whitney Kazragis, the community outreach liaison for the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management.

Anonymous User : What paperwork do you recommend keeping together for a pet in terms of leaving home in a hurry?

Whitney Kazragis : That's a great question. We recommend keeping a folder with copies of all important documents. Those include veterinary records, rabies certificate, vaccinations list, medical summary, prescriptions for medications, the most recent heartworm test results, photocopied registration information and microchip information. It's important to have a description of your pet and recent photographs of each pet. It's also a good idea to have a picture of you and your pet together so identification is easier. The more information, the better!

Anonymous User : I understand that there are differnent types of identification systems, microchips? What type of microchip does Fairfax County scan for? Is one company more prevelent that others? My dog is 15 years old and the vet tatooed my SSN on her stomach when she was a puppy, is that really effective if my pet is lost? Are there "medic alert" collars or some other way to notify people quickly if your pet is on meds or has allergies? Thank you.

Kristen Auerbach : In the past, microchipping was not always effective, because there were several different companies and each company had its own chip and a scanner that would read only those chips.  Today, most scanners will read chips from any of the main companies.  Microchipping is the most sure way to make sure your pet can be reunited with you in the event that you are separated.

Any identification that is truly unique to your pet, including a tattoo, may help you get back your lost pet.  However, microchipping is the most effective identification because it is linked to a computer system that can be accessed everywhere. If your pet has a medical condition, you can put a special tag on your pet to indicate the allergy or issue and you can enter the information into your microchip profile.

Anonymous User : Does the county have low cost crates available for sale? While I can put my pet in the car for short rides in a true emergency I would want to put her in a crate for any long distance or emergency travel. How much food and water should one keep on hand for a small dog or cat (under 15 pounds) for emergencies?

Whitney Kazragis : It is recommended that every pet owner have a crate on hand in case it is needed in an emergency. The county does not sell crates. You should have a minimum of seven days of food and water for each pet.

Helen : Several years ago someone from Virginia Dept of Preparedness came to a Bird Clubs of VA meeting and discussed VA's program for preparedness. Basically, they were going to use space at George Mason University, pets had to be caged and they would have areas for pets like birds. Some of us volunteered to help with birds. Does that program still exist? Do the Fairfax program and the VA program work together? What are the plans if there is a major disaster?

Whitney Kazragis : Fairfax County works very closely with our state and local partners. The county has pre-identified shelter locations that can host pets and the Office of Emergency Management would work closely with Fairfax County Animal Services to house those pets in the event of a major disaster. It is always important to keep your pet in a crate or cage. We recommend making a plan to shelter pets in place or be prepared to leave the area with their pet to avoid staying in a shelter during a disaster.

Kristen Auerbach : We've enjoyed sharing information with you about caring for pets in an emergency.  For more information, check out the Fairfax County Emergency Blog at

Also, see for more ways to get keep you and your pet safe in an emergency or disaster situation.

The Office of Emergency Management will be giving out information packets and answering questions at the animal shelter today from 4 - 7 p.m.