How to Keep Your Pets Safe in a Flood

Published: 5/26/2021
No one likes thinking about how they'll endure a natural disaster like a major flood, but preparation is key. Everyone, regardless of whether they live in a high-risk zone, should have a disaster preparedness plan in place.

Not sure where to start? We've included some emergency preparedness tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state-level agencies to help you and your pets stay safe before, during, and after a flood.

Before a flood

Moving to an area prone to flooding? Already living in a flood-prone area and planning to get a pet? Take care of these emergency preparedness tasks as soon as possible to stay safe.

Sign up for weather alerts

Many weather apps include notifications for extreme weather. Ensure these notifications are on at all times. The FEMA app provides weather alerts as well as real-time information on emergency shelters in your area.

Contact your local emergency management division(s) to learn about policies and procedures

Each state has an emergency management department. This agency monitors natural disasters and coordinates a response. Your city may also have a similar agency.

We recommend researching and/or contacting these divisions at the first opportunity — perhaps after you've moved into your home. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • Where are the disaster shelters located in my area?

  • What is the evacuation procedure for floods and other natural disasters in my area?

  • Is disaster recovery assistance available in case I need to repair or rebuild my home?

When you know where the shelters and local authorities are, it's a good idea to contact them as well. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • Do you allow pets in the shelter?

  • Are there any restrictions on the number, size, or species of permitted pets?

  • What are your pet policies?

Many disaster shelters reject pets. Some states set up temporary animal shelters during natural disasters, but this isn't common. Research pet-friendly hotels in the area in case you need to evacuate.

Some kennels will also board animals during a natural disaster. Contact the kennel to ensure the facility is safe and has an evacuation plan for staff and animals.

Create a family disaster plan and kit

Once you've got answers to these questions, start creating your family's emergency plan and kit. It's a good idea to print out your plan and store it in a waterproof document wallet in case you lose internet or power. Talk to your vet when creating your emergency plan as well. They'll be able to assist you with disaster planning.

Here are a few things your emergency kit should include (visit Ready.gov for a full list of essentials):

  • Evacuation route

  • First aid kit with adequate supplies for all family members

  • 1 gallon of water per day, per person and pet (ideally stored in clean plastic containers)

  • Flashlight with extra batteries

  • Medications

  • Toiletries

  • Plywood and nails

  • Battery-powered radio

  • Ample supplies of pet food and cat litter

Your emergency plan and kit should also include contact information for:

  • You and your family members

  • Your emergency contacts

  • Your local veterinarian

  • Pet-friendly hotels

  • Pet-friendly shelters

  • Local kennels

  • Emergency veterinary hospitals

Buy a durable pet carrier

Although soft-sided carriers may be lighter and easier to transport, you'll want to invest in a durable, hard-sided pet carrier for each pet. Steel or fiberglass crates work well. The carrier should have enough space for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Don't place water in the crate during transport. Crate training your dogs and cats as soon as possible is essential for keeping them calm during an emergency.

Pack an emergency evacuation kit for your pet

FEMA recommends packing 10 days' worth of supplies in your emergency evacuation kit in case basic utilities are unavailable. Add your pets' important documents and photos to a sealed, waterproof bag. Here are a few other things you should include:

  • Food in an airtight container

  • Drinking water in a clean plastic container

  • Collapsible food and water bowls

  • Bedding

  • Toys

  • Treats

  • 2 durable leashes

  • Extra collar

  • Harness

  • ID tags

  • Proof of vaccinations

  • Health certificate

  • Medical records

  • First aid kit

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medication

  • Photos of you with your pets for identification purposes

  • Sanitary items (waste bags for dogs, litter and a litter box for cats, newspaper for small animals, cleaning solution, paper towels, etc.)

Coordinate with emergency contacts

Designate one or more emergency contacts you can trust. Ideally, one contact should be a friend or family member who lives outside the flood zone. Ask them if they'd be willing to provide shelter for you, your family, and your pets in case of a natural disaster. You may also want to designate an emergency contact closer to home.

Share your emergency plan with your emergency contacts so everyone knows what to do when disaster strikes. All your emergency contacts should interact with your pets.

Get your pet microchipped

If your pet is separated from you during a flood and loses their collar, their microchip can ensure they're returned to you quickly. Veterinarians and animal shelters use microchip scanners to see your contact info. Always keep your information updated, which leads us to our next tip.

Keep your pet's microchip and ID tags up-to-date

Up-to-date contact information can ensure your pet's safe return if you're separated during a natural disaster. Always update your pet's ID tags and microchip whenever you change your address or phone number. To update your pet's microchip, contact your vet or the microchip manufacturer.

Train your dog to swim

Contrary to popular belief, dogs aren't born knowing how to swim. Whether or not you live in an area prone to flooding, it's a good idea to train your dog to swim just in case they're separated from you or end up in the water.

Purchase "Pet Inside" stickers for your home

Placing "Pet Inside" stickers on doors and windows can let emergency responders know your pets need rescuing from a natural disaster. These stickers typically include a place for you to write down your contact information and the number of pets in the home. You can find these stickers at big-box pet stores and online retailers.

During a flood

Start preparing as soon as you receive news of a flood warning in your area. Be proactive during a flood warning — don't wait to be told to move to higher ground.

Do your best to stay calm. We know this is easier said than done during a natural disaster. Your pets will pick up on your emotional state and could also become distressed. Stay indoors with your pets if you're not evacuating.

Evacuate to your trusted emergency contact or pet-friendly facility if told to do so

If you've received an evacuation order or news of a severe flood warning, follow your evacuation plan and seek shelter immediately. Don't drive into a flood or across a bridge over rapidly moving water. If your car becomes trapped in rising water, don't abandon it. Climb onto the roof of your car if the water starts rising in your car.

If you've purchased a "Pet Inside" sticker for your home, write "Evacuated with pets" on the sticker if time permits.

For more information on evacuating from a flood, visit Ready.gov.

Stay indoors with your pets if you're not evacuating

Many animals are sensitive to environmental changes and may hide or attempt to flee. Bring your pets indoors as soon as you receive news of a flood warning.

If your home has a second floor or an attic, move your family members, pets, and any essential items upstairs. If not, move to the highest ground available, like a countertop.

Don't walk through a flood, even one that doesn't seem very deep. Just 6 inches of water can sweep you away and cause serious injury.

What to do if you have to leave your pets behind

As a responsible pet parent, you'll undoubtedly make every effort to stay with your pets before, during, and after a natural disaster. But, as heartbreaking as it is to think about, there may come a time when you need to leave your animals behind.

Never leave a pet outdoors or chained up inside during a natural disaster. Contact your emergency contacts, local flood warden, emergency response agency, and/or the local chapter of the ASPCA immediately to let them know where your pets are located inside your home.

Move all your pets to a safe area away from windows. This area should be located in the highest level of your home. Cats and dogs should be separated even if they normally get along.

Provide at least 3 days' worth of food and drinking water. Lay down newspapers or litter boxes for sanitary purposes.

Remove the toilet tank lid and keep the seat up so they can drink in case their water runs out. Providing wet food for your pets can also help keep them hydrated. However, dry food keeps longer.

After a flood

There are a few things you'll need to do once the flood is over to keep your family and pets safe.

Return home only when it's safe to do so
Tune in to your local radio station or stay updated on conditions with the FEMA app. Return home only when you've got the green light from your local emergency management division.

Keep your pets leashed

A flood can wash away familiar smells and introduce some new ones. It can also displace wildlife. After the flood, keep your pet leashed when you go outside to prevent confusion and ensure they don't tear off after a critter.

Take your pets to the vet

Book a checkup after the flood, especially if your pet isn't eating or has become aggressive or fearful. Natural disasters can cause behavioral changes. Your vet can treat your pet and provide expert advice.

Additional resources for keeping your pets safe during a flood
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