Why FEMA Cares About Pet Safety In Emergencies

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S., has the responsibility of assisting local governments in mitigating risk, and recovering from large scale disasters and emergencies.  So why should they care about our pets, or any other animals, in the event of a disaster?

First, let’s talk about what constitutes a “Disaster” or “Emergency” that warrants FEMA’s attention and involvement.  

Natural disasters like hurricanes, storms, earthquakes have a large impact on wildlife and on pets
Pets and Wildlife have a role in disasters and emergencies

Disasters that get FEMA's attention may occur in the form of:

Natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes & storms or earthquakes.

 Acts of Terror such as a mass shooting, bombing, or the events of 9/11 in New York in 2001.

 Technological or Industrial disasters such as a large scale chemical contamination, factory explosion, or a nuclear accident.

With such extreme events that can be catastrophic for humans to worry about, why does FEMA care about the safety of our pets or any other animals? 

Pets should be a part of your disaster and emergency preparedness plans
I'm glad FEMA cares about me and all the other animals (even those pesky deer) if disaster strikes!

4 categories comprise FEMA’s main concern and responsibility  

Here’s how animals can impact each of those 4 categories:

🐶 Public Safety risk:  

People may be reluctant to evacuate if they can’t bring their pets with them to safety, or if they can’t locate their pets in the home or on their property when an evacuation order is given.  Pets should be part of your emergency preparedness and evacuation plans!

What if a disaster damaged fencing or cages at a zoo and dangerous animals escaped?  What if frightened, displaced wildlife began attacking pets or children out of extreme fear?   What if hundreds of shelter dogs escaped and began running wildly in the streets?  Zoos, as well as Animal Shelters, need emergency preparedness and evacuation plans in place that include the animals in their care.

Animal shelters and zoos should include the animals in their care in disaster and emergency preparedness plans
What will become of me and all my shelter friends if disaster strikes?

The safety of First Responders is a significant concern.  If they encounter aggressive or fear aggressive pets or other animals, Responders must be trained to recognize the signs of aggression and fear in animals and respond accordingly.

🙀 Public Health risk:

Diseases due to dead animals as a result of a disaster may occur and spread rapidly.  Animal diseases that are kept under controlled in normal circumstances, such as Salmonella, may begin to spread more quickly during disasters like flooding or mud slides.   Animal waste contained on farms may contaminate the water supply in the event of flooding.  Communities need to be prepared to respond to a post disaster scenario like this.

🐺 Economic risk:

Not only is damage of property a huge cost to individuals, insurance companies, and the local economy, but loss of livestock and farms also have a potentially large impact on local and national productivity.  Livestock should be included in disaster preparedness.  A plan to shelter and transport these animals should be in place.

In the event of a disaster or emergency, animals and the environment can be at risk.  Local authorities should be prepared to address these issues
Wildfires raged in Sedona in 2014 near my favorite watering hole.  There was so much destruction.  We didn't go back for two years!

🐈 Environmental concerns:

Protecting wildlife is important for the natural environment and balance.  During a disaster, disease and contaminants may be present.  This could affect the natural environment, including plants, trees, rivers, and the drinking water supply.

During Hurricane Katrina, thousands of animals needed to be rescued, transported, and sheltered.   Sadly, a huge number of displaced pets were never reunited with their families.  

I will take the opportunity right now to urge everyone to Microchip your dog or cat!  A chip can be easily scanned, the family contacted, and the microchipped pet quickly returned home.  If a pet isn’t microchipped and their collar with ID tags is lost an owner has to conduct a widespread search on their own.  This is difficult enough, but in an emergency situation you never know where your pet may end up.  They may even be transported to another state!  A pet’s collar is very likely to break off or get lost in the chaos of a disaster.

Microchipping your pets becomes even more critical in the event of an emergency or disaster
We are both microchipped, so Mommy can find us if we got separated during an emergency!

Legislation was enacted in 2006 to help animals in the face of disaster

Following Hurricane Katrina, the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act  (OR See the Simpler Wikipedia page link) and the Emergency Management Reform Act  were created.  This mandates state and local communities to incorporate provisions in their emergency plans for people with household pets and service animals.  

State and local governments must now include animals in their disaster plans, with help and support from FEMA.

I am so happy that this legislation was created!  In  September 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated Southern Texas and Hurricane Irma barreled through the Caribbean, leaving much devastation in it's path.  At this moment, Hurricane Florence is making landfall in the Carolinas, with enormous flooding potential.

During Hurricane Harvey preparations, shelters in states neighboring Texas went into action to help the pets and animals they know will be lost or displaced following the Hurricane.  They made room in their shelters, arranged for transport out of Texas, and had fosters lined up to handle the overflow of pets they know will be coming.   I'm hoping shelters will do the same each time a catastrophic event occurs.

Disaster can strike at a moment's notice, please be sure to have a Disaster Preparedness Plan for your family in place!  It's critical that you include your pets in disaster planning. Be ready to evacuate your family, including pets, if your city makes the recommendation.

Here are links to some excellent resources that can help you with Emergency Disaster Planning that includes pets:

Hill’s Food Shelter and Love’s Disaster Relief Network  helps animal shelters in need when disaster strikes.  They have shared lots of information to help you ensure your pets safety in an emergency!

Get Hill's Info Graphic on how to be #PetPrepared from Hill's Pet Nutrition's Food Shelter and Love program

Hill's 8 Steps To Get Prepared,  will help you get pets ready in the event a natural disaster should occur.

Are you prepared for how YOUR pet may act in a disaster or emergency situation? In the post linked here, I talk more about how a disaster or emergency situation might effect your pets during and after the emergency.  Pets may not behave the way you expect in the face of disaster!

Do you have a disaster preparedness plan in place that includes your pets?  Where will you take your pet in the event of an evacuation?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts with us, we love hearing from you!


Unknown said...

Great information, Cathy! I didn't know FEMA had done this but it makes a lot of sense and it makes me feel better knowing that pets aren't going to be overlooked during a crisis event.

Just a reminder also to make sure your information is up to date with the registry of your dog's microchip if you move or change phone numbers. It's time I finally put that disaster plan/kit together!

Robbi Hess said...

This is great information and I love the other resources you provided. Great to keep in mind as we are looking at some not so great weather here in WNY this weekend.

Unknown said...

Very good article with important information. Let's hope we never need it, but be prepared just in case.

AmyShojai said...

Excellent info. I knew about FEMA but not the various designations or further details.

Unknown said...

I don't remember the name of it but I watched a documentary on the displaced pets after Katrina and it was heartbreaking. I never realized what a cluster it really is when disaster strikes; it's absolutely terrifying. Glad to see PETS was created to help make our pets part of the plan.

Talent Hounds said...

Great info and a good reminder. I am not sure if Canada has similar but will now look into it. Kilo was microchipped just before I started fostering him. You think "it won't happen to me" but it can.

DawgBlogger said...

So important. Having dogs only, I think we are in a pretty good shape. But if he had horses or other large animals, those one cannot load in the truck and take along. We'd have to do much more emergency planning.

Amanda Yantos said...

This is such an interesting concept. I didn't even think of the reasons you listed as to why FEMA should help pets also. I'd definitely be one of those people who'd stay back and die with my animals if I couldn't take them with me. I just saw the movie San Andreas yesterday, which is about what would possibly happen if the San Andreas fault shifted. At the end, there was a glimpse of a man with his dog, and they were getting help. Brought a smile to my face! I'm glad FEMA is on board.

Unknown said...

Truth be told, I never really thought about the impact animals had on disaster preparedness.

I mean we always knew what to with OURS if a disaster struck, and have our gear ready in case we needed to evacuate, but never thought about livestock or zoos.

This is great information!

FidoseofReality said...

We know all about FEMA here, having to evacuate twice for potential flood. Great post and thanks for spreading the word.

Unknown said...

These are really great resources. You post really had me thinking about being better prepared and having a plan.

Unknown said...

Wow! This was a great article! Sharing!

Three Chatty Cats said...

Great info, great post! I'm glad that FEMA cares about pets and animals as well. So many people won't leave them behind (I wouldn't!). We all need to be prepared and keep our pets in mind.

Lola The Rescued Cat said...

I didn't know about this legislation! This is such an informative post and I hope many read and benefit from it. I'm getting better at planning for a disaster. I still have a little ways to go, but I'm in a better place.

Chirpy Cats said...

This is amazing info and no, we do not have a disaster plan in place! But we should not be so complacent as disaster can strike anywhere! I wonder if we have something similar here in Canada.

Ruby's Rescued Life said...

Very interesting. I actually just read that NC is one of the largest producers of pigs and in past hurricanes thousands of pigs drowned because there was no plan in place and livestock was not included in emergency planning. Hopefully, measures were taken to protect them this time around

Hindy Pearson said...

Great post and I'm encouraged to hear how many resources and organisations are helping our pets in an emergency. I've read too many sad stories about animals being separated from family, lost, denied entry into shelters. It's about time they were seen as part of the family and more was done to help them in a crisis.

Impurrfectlife said...

What a great informative post. The points you laid out make perfect sense and I'm glad legislation was created to help provide measures to support and protect animals in the face of an emergency or natural disaster. It really breaks my heart when I hear stories of owners who left their beloved pets behind.

Talent Hounds said...

It is reassuring to know that FEMA covers animals. Thank you for explaining why and how so clearly. Most people wouldn't think about zoos, shelters and livestock when they are worried about their own safety and their family. So important to have a plan and be prepared as you just never know.

Beth said...

These are great tips! I have a disaster kit for my dogs, and I just updated this weekend. Better safe than sorry.

DawgBlogger said...

Wow, I didn't know it was legislated. But that's awesome.

JoeHx said...

I'm so glad that the government keeps animals in minds regarding emergency preparedness.

Sweet Purrfections said...

I know my friend who lives on the coast of SC has researched hotels far enough away that will take in pets when she must evacuate from a hurricane.

FiveSibesMom said...

Excellent informative post, Cathy, filled with a great explanation of what FEMA does! Pinning to share!

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