Care for Pets and Service Animals

When it comes to emergencies, animals, whether they are house pets, livestock, or living in the wild, have often been overlooked by emergency planners and the general public. Plan now how your pets and other animals will be cared for if you have to evacuate. Pets, in contrast to service animals, are usually NOT allowed in emergency shelters due to health regulations, so have some animal shelters and “pet friendly” hotels identified in advance that are open 24/7. ( You may want to contact your local Red Cross chapter and veterinarian well in advance for guidance in finding a safe boarding facility or vet along your planned evacuation route – about 90 miles away. Keep this list with your emergency supplies. Establish relationships with other animal owners in your neighborhood so that if you are not at home when a disaster strikes, there will be someone to help care for your animal. Leave a pre-signed form authorizing medical care for your pet and leave a copy with your neighbor and veterinarian. Be sure to get a free sticker from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to place in your window identifying your house as a home with pets. (

If at all possible, NEVER leave your pets alone or chained in the yard — take them with you. Practice evacuating with your pets – get them use to loud noises, bright flashing lights, and lots of commotion. Animals left behind in an emergency can easily be injured, lost or killed. Left to fend for themselves, they are likely to become victims of exposure, starvation, predators, or contaminated food and water. If you are told to evacuate, get out early so you can leave with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency personnel, you may be forced to leave your pets behind.

Pets and service animals may become confused, panicked, frightened or disoriented during a disaster. Even a friendly animal may become aggressive or snap at someone when stressed. Therefore, be prepared to keep your animals confined, securely leashed or harnessed, and possibly muzzled. A leash/harness is an important item for managing a nervous or upset animal. If your animal is a service animal, be prepared to use alternative ways to negotiate your environment.

Whether you are planning to evacuate or shelter in place, your pets should be microchipped and have I.D. tags with both your home telephone number and that of your out-of-town, family contact’s name on them. Make sure their shots and licenses are current. Included in your disaster supplies kit should be any medications, medical/shot records and a photo of you with your pet for proper identification and reunification. Store supplies in a pack that your animal can easily carry in case you need to evacuate. (Get your animal used to carrying the pack before an emergency strikes.) This kit should include: a bowl for water and food; dry food (enough for 3-7 days) in an air-tight, sealable container; a blanket for bedding; plastic bags, gloves, and paper towels for disposing of feces; disinfectant; a favorite toy; an extra harness or leash; a pet first aid book and first aid kit.

Just like their human family, animals will be stressed and confused after a disaster. Familiar landmarks and smells may be missing and pets may easily get lost. For a few days, be sure to keep dogs on leashes and cats in a carrier inside your home. Be patient with your pets and maintain your sense of humor. Remember that changes in food, surroundings, and the general stress of the situation may result in upset stomachs, diarrhea and vomiting. Try to get back to a normal routine as quickly as possible and if behaviors problems continue, seek advice from your veterinarian. (The Humane Society of the United States, Emergency Services, 2008)

Care for Livestock

Clinton County has a large farming population and is known as the “Dairy Capitol” of Illinois. Therefore, having an emergency plan that includes preparations for livestock is of vital importance due to their size, special sheltering needs and transport requirements. (The Humane Society of the United States, Emergency Services, 2008) Don’t delay – create an emergency telephone number list which includes employees, neighbors, veterinarians, poison control office, local animal shelters, county extension service, local agricultural schools, trailering resources, volunteers (4H clubs), emergency response personnel, and a family contact outside of the local area. Post this list by every telephone and at the entrance to all buildings. The list should also include directions to find your home -sometimes in stressful situations, we may forget our address and phone number and not be able to give coherent information or directions over the phone!

  • Make sure every animal has visible identification
  • Ensure poultry have access to high areas on which to perch
  • Perform regular safety checks on all utilities (electrical wiring), building and facilities
  • Mount fire extinguishers in all buildings, especially near the entrances (keep appliances to a minimum in barn areas; do not use stall fans, space heaters or radios unless someone is there; install a sprinkler system and smoke alarms hooked up to sirens; and make sure hay is dry before storing it)
  • Post evacuation routes from all buildings (practice, practice, and practice again with your animals so they are more comfortable around flashing lights, loud noises and lots of commotion)
  • Remove all barbed wire and consider re-routing permanent fencing so that animals can move to high ground in a flood and to low-lying areas in high winds
  • Make sure your name and address is clearly visible from the road
  • Provide an alternate water and power source – a generator may be a necessity
  • Secure anything that could become windblown debris (trailers, propane tanks, watering troughs)
  • Label hazardous materials and place them in a safe area easily identifiable to emergency responders
  • Remove buried trash or other materials that might leach into the crops, feed supplies, water sources or pasture/soil during flooding
  • Plant native shrubs and trees with deep roots to limit storm damage
  • Determine whether to shelter in place or to evacuate – confinement in a barn or pen during an emergency may actually reduce your animals’ abilities to protect themselves and increase their risk of dehydration, electrocution and accident or injury. To safely shelter in place, survey your property for the best location for shelter – pasture area should be clear of non-native trees, power lines and poles, debris, barbed-wire fencing, and should be at least one acre in size so that animals may avoid wind-blown debris. If your shelter area does not meet these requirements, you will need to plan to evacuate your animals.
  • When planning for evacuation, be ready to leave as soon as the order is given especially if you will be hauling a high-profile trailer; work with your local community to establish safe shelter areas in advance such as the fairgrounds or a convention center; organize safe transportation suitable for livestock, appropriate for each type of animal, with experienced handlers and drivers and set up mutual aid agreements in advance; take your disaster supplies with you including feed, water, buckets, veterinary supplies, a first aid kit, handling equipment (halters or cages), tools, items needed for sanitation, generators and fencing to keep animals in familiar groups, securely contained and sheltered from the elements.
  • Make sure you keep with you a current list of all animals. It should include their location, records of feeding, vaccinations and tests, and proof of ownership
  • Identify additional information and/or resources such as the Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 (202) 452-1100; the United Animal Network-Emergency Animal Rescue Services, 1722 J St, Suite 11, PO Box 188890, Sacramento, CA 95818 (916) 429-2457; and the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1931 N. Meacham Rd, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173 (800) 248-2862 ext. 6632.



Evacuations are more common than many people realize. Hundreds of times each year, transportation and industrial accidents release harmful substances into the environment and thousands of people have to leave their homes. Fires and floods cause evacuations even more frequently. If your family is ever told to EVACUATE by authorities, then do so immediately. Wear protective clothing, sturdy shoes and don’t forget to grab your disaster kit. Secure your pets (according to your plan). If instructed to do so by authorities, shut off the water, gas, and electricity before leaving (remember – once it is turned off, you will need a trained professional to turn it back on.) Lock your home. Use travel routes specified by local authorities – don’t use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous. Listen to your battery-powered radio and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. Stay away from downed power lines and, again, don’t walk or drive into flooded areas. This is what you have prepared, practiced and trained for!

Go to a Shelter

Taking shelter is critical in times of a disaster. Evacuating your home and/or community may require you to take shelter outside the designated hazard area. This might include staying with friends and family, staying at a hotel or staying in a mass care facility operated by a disaster relief group such as the American Red Cross. Even though mass care shelters often provide water, food, medicine and basic sanitary supplies, you should still plan to take your disaster supplies kit with you to meet your personal needs. Mass care shelters usually require you to live with many diverse people, in a confined space, with limited resources and supplies. Many times shelters provide inadequate bathroom/showering facilities, people are under emotional stress, and everyone is living and working under difficult circumstances. Be prepared to be patient, maintain your sense of humor and cooperate with shelter authorities. Keep in mind that pets, alcoholic beverages, weapons, and smoking are not allowed in emergency shelters.

Shelter in Place

In some situations, you may be required to “shelter-in-place” for a time by staying in your home (i.e. during a pandemic flu outbreak) or staying at school/work (i.e. during a tornado.) Make sure you have identified your family’s “safe room” as noted above. At home, you should plan to always have on hand enough food, water and supplies for a two-week period so you are prepared depending on the type of emergency. During extended periods of sheltering, you will need to manage water and food supplies to ensure that you and your family have adequate resources to meet your needs.

Never ration water unless ordered to do so by authorities. Each person should drink a minimum of 4 cups of water each day. Drink water that you know is not contaminated first. Suspicious water (i.e. cloudy or dirty water from faucets, pond water, or from a radiator) should not be used unless the situation becomes life-threatening. Carbonated, caffeinated or alcoholic drinks do not count – they dehydrate the body.

Identify a “safe room” to provide shelter and refuge during extreme events. A basement (if you are not located in a flood area), atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor, or an interior room on the first floor (i.e. an interior bathroom.) The safe room should be adequately anchored and secured to resist overturning, uplift, wind pressure, falling debris, breaking glass and penetration by windborne objects. Ideally, the room should be large enough to accommodate your family, pets, disaster kit and other emergency supplies.

Seal the Room

In certain emergencies (i.e. chemical spills or bio-hazard events), emergency officials may require you to shelter-in-place (stay put) and “seal” your safe room. What this means is that you will need to create a “barrier” or seal between yourself, your family, and any potentially contaminated air outside.

To do this, lock the doors and close all the windows, air vents, and fireplace dampers. Turn off your home’s ventilation system – turn off fans, air conditioning and/or furnaces. Use materials (i.e. towels, sheets, duct tape or anything else available) to fill cracks and holes in the room (i.e. around pipes.)  Bring your 72-hr kit (if it is not contaminated) with you and gather your family in your predetermined location (an area with as few windows and doors as possible). Cover the windows, doors, and vents with plastic sheeting and seal with duct tape. Monitor your radio or other local media for instructions as news becomes available.

FEMA officials suggest that ten square feet of floor space, per person, should provide sufficient air for three-five hours assuming normal breathing in a sealed room. Keep in mind that in addition to the build-up of carbon dioxide, the integrity and safety of the room will also decrease over time. Once the emergency has passed and officials give the “all clear” signal, ventilate the shelter room carefully to avoid breathing any remaining contaminated air.



Dealing with disease outbreaks like the pandemic flu, measles and Ebola; day to day chronic illnesses like diabetes or arthritis; and even the impact of world events or an unexpected crisis at home, can be stressful and overwhelming. At times, you may find yourself feeling worried, powerless, overwhelmed or even frustrated with the situation and circumstances. It is NORMAL to feel this way.  Be patient with yourself and those around you. Give yourself time to cope and heal.

Strategies for Dealing with Stress

  • Get Your Information From a Reliable Source. Do not act based solely on rumors or gossip, what you read on the internet, or what you hear over the radio. Instead, get your information from respected sources such as: the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (, the Illinois Department of Public Health (, or your local health department (618-594-2723)


  • Take Care of Yourself. Stress and worry can make you feel tired or cause other physical reactions like headaches, chest pains, or breathing problems. It can also make existing medical problems worse (flare-up) or affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Try these tips to feel better:

Eat healthy meals and limit caffeine intake (don’t self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or fast food)
Breathe (deep, cleansing breaths are a relaxation technique that may help to restore balance to the nervous system)
Sleep six to eight hours per night (practice good sleep “hygiene” habits such as no TV or computers in the hours before bedtime)
Get out and MOVE everyday (take a short walk or a yoga class, go bicycling with your family, play with the dog)
Save time for activities you enjoy (reading, listening to music, taking a warm bath, learning a new craft)
Stick to your normal routine (helps you feel more in-control and provides stability for your family – especially small children)
Balance work and family (set priorities)

  • Speak Up if You Are Overwhelmed. If you feel tired, sad, overwhelmed, or hopeless, find a friend or join a support group to talk about your feelings. You may find that others feel the same way and that you can understand and support each other. Don’t ever isolate yourself and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family members, or a health professional/counselor.

Overcoming stressful experiences is difficult, but it is possible with time and support. Above all, remember that your reactions are NORMAL for dealing with an ABNORMAL situation and you are not alone! (