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Approved by Denise Flaim.

Many emergency situations may require you and your dog to evacuate from your home for safety reasons, and the risk of a natural disaster is the most common. If you ever need to evacuate your home, never, leave your dog behind. You have legal rights to take him with you. The PETS Act requires that household pets and service animals are included in any emergency preparedness operational plans by state and local authorities.

The only way to make an evacuation less stressful is by preparing well in advance. The more you are prepared to leave on a moment’s notice, the less stress and anxiety you and your dog will have when, and if, the situation arises.

To create a successful evacuation plan, you should:

  • Designate an area near the front door for important items to take with you. Make sure everyone in your family knows the location, and instruct them to keep it clutter-free.
  • Make an emergency “go bag” for your dog. This bag should contain essentials you and your dog will need while away from home, including your dog’s identification and registration numbers; a detailed history of his vaccinations, his medications and prescriptions; a few days supply of dog food and bottled water; and a first aid kit. Label your “go bag” clearly, and put it in the designated place.
  • Put your dog’s leash in the designated area, along with a safety belt or car harness if you might travel by car. While authorities will encourage you to evacuate quickly, you still have to act as a responsible dog owner and ensure that your dog travels as safely as possible.
  • Place your dog’s protective gear in the designated area. Dogs can suffer from the same physical risks as humans, like heatstroke and frostbite, so make sure your preparations include a warm jacket and booties to protect against snow and ice, a portable water bowl to keep him hydrated, and a life jacket to protect against flooding.
  • Identify a safe place for you and your dog to go. It might be a friend’s home located outside the area; a pet-friendly hotel or motel; or a pet-friendly shelter. It is wise to have several options in mind, in case certain roads are blocked and you have to change direction.
  • Make sure your dog is comfortable traveling by car. Your dog should not be afraid of getting into or riding in, a car. Do everything you can to prepare him for car travel, and it’ll make it go much more smoothly for all of you.
  • Designate someone in your household to be in charge of your dog’s whereabouts and your methods of communication. Everyone in your family should know where you and your dog are at all times. You wouldn’t want to risk a miscommunication that leads to another family member returning home to rescue your dog! It is also smart to leave a note on your front door that describes where you went, just in case.
  • Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; roads may be blocked or too dangerous for you and your dog to travel.

When evacuating, it’s crucial that you remain calm at all times. Dogs can sense panic and may react negatively. Always listen to local authorities and follow their instructions when evacuating.

For more evacuation tips for your and your family, visit Ready.gov.

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