Emergencies are dangerous events/situations that occur unexpectedly like fire, flood, big storms, earthquakes, etc. These events need immediate action as they often pose a risk to people, animals, property, and the environment. Making a plan for your animals in the event of an emergency is a key part of responsible animal guardianship!
In an emergency situation, a plan for every member of your family is vital – this includes your animals. Unlike people, animals don’t know things like “stop, drop, and roll,” “drop, cover, and hold,” or how to make an emergency plan. Part of being a responsible animal guardian (owner) is making sure you’re prepared to keep your animal(s) safe in the event of an emergency!
There are three essential steps that should be taken in preparation for any emergency:
Knowing exactly what to do in the event of an emergency is of the utmost importance for both you and your animals.
Talk to an adult about creating an emergency plan so that everyone knows what to do in all emergencies, how to act early, fast and safely, who has what role, and where everyone will go if you have to evacuate your home.
The following steps can help you prepare your household and your animals for an emergency situation:
Note: Please do not abandon your animals. For the safety of your animals and other people, ideally you will take your animals with you if you have to leave your home or the area. Remember if it is unsafe for you to remain in your home, it is unsafe for your animals as well. If you’re staying inside, be sure to keep your animals inside with everything they need as well.
There are some situations in which you cannot bring your animal with you or you cannot bring them inside (i.e. cows, horses), so you need to ensure they are safe and have everything they need depending on the situation. Remember to never tie your animals up and ensure you can be contacted
What to think about:
Whether you have a cat, dog, horse, rabbit, or goat – these animals depend on their guardians for everything. We provide them with food, water, shelter, love and understanding, among many other things. When an emergency arises and you need to leave your home, you must ensure that you’re still able to meet your animals’ needs.
A good way to make sure you have everything your animal will need in their kit is by going through the five domains. Your family should ensure that you’re still able to meet all of these welfare standards, no matter where you and your companion animals go.
Below is a helpful chart that outlines what you need for your animal and which of the five domains it falls under:
The Five Domains
Examples of What you need:
Your animal(s) get-away kit should also include:
You might need to leave in a hurry, so place your animals’ get-away kit in a place that grab and go easily!
It’s also a good idea to have another separate kit that you can use in case the emergency situation requires you to remain in your home for a few days. For example, during 2020, there were periods of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should have a plan and kit in place in case you need to self-isolate or if you are sick. Ideally your animals should remain in your care, with all the supplies they will need for at least 2 weeks.
This can be a big change for an animal’s routine so it’s always good to contact your local SPCA and your animal’s veterinarian to see how you can meet your animal’s needs during this time.
Having your companion animal microchipped is an extremely important part of responsible animal guardianship. It is especially important in an emergency. If your companion animal was to accidentally get separated from your family during an evacuation, a microchip will increase your chances of being reunited.
Microchips are only useful if they are registered and kept up to date. Make sure your companion animal’s microchip is registered with your family’s contact information and if you ever move, be sure to update your information.
Microchips are essential because they can never fall off or be removed like a collar.
ID tags display essential information such as your companion animal’s name, along with your contact information. ID tags let people know your animal has a loving family who will be looking for them and it can help whoever found them reunite them with you.
Now that you’ve created an emergency plan and have all of your supplies ready to go, it’s time to practise, practise, practise!
Set aside time with your household to practise your plan so everyone is confident with what to do. You can make it a challenge by timing yourselves and making a points system based on how efficiently and safely you carry out your plan.
Practicing also includes getting cats and small animals used to carriers and car trips, and dogs used to car trips as well. This should always be a positive experience for your animals, so ensure they’re comfortable and you use reward-based training!
You can learn more about animals in emergencies and how SPCA’s National Rescue Unit help animals in emergencies here.