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Orlando Sentinel | Protect Your Pets Before a Natural Disaster Strikes

July 8, 2024By: Dr. Tom Edling, Chief Veterinary Officer at American Humane and Dr. Richard Goldstein, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Medical Affairs at Zoetis 

From severe storms to wildfires, statistics show that natural disasters are occurring more frequently and with greater intensity. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 2023 saw more billion-dollar weather disasters on record and that 2024 is off to a vicious start.

Animals are often the first to sense a natural disaster coming, thanks to their sensitive hearing, smell, and ability to detect changes in atmospheric pressure. With June being National Pet Preparedness Month, it is important to consider how we prepare for our pets’ safety in the light of natural disasters.

66 percent of U.S. households own a pet, and according to a recent survey, 76 percent of respondents said they would stay at home with their pet during an emergency if they couldn’t bring them with them, and 80 percent would give up their spot in an emergency shelter if they couldn’t keep the pet with them. Even so, animal shelters often see an uptick in abandoned pets in the wake of natural disasters or major storms. With the help of organizations like American Humane, communities and pet parents can be better prepared for an emergency, reduce the number of pets lost, and increase the number of pets rescued and reunited with their owners.

This work has been on full display in recent years as American Humane—supported by companies like Zoetis—has been deployed to wide-ranging problem areas, including to Guam following a deadly typhoon and to Spokane last summer where hundreds of animals were cared for after a devastating wildfire. But not all animals are as lucky. That is why a few preventative measures can be crucial when it comes to keeping our loved ones—both humans and pets—safe and secure.

Simply put: Pet preparedness saves lives.

Experts recommend having a pet disaster kit ready in case of emergency. Just as we prepare the essentials for ourselves in the case of an evacuation, doing the same for our pets can save time—and lives. It’s recommended to have a first aid kit, leash, bowl, sanitation materials, and ideally seven to ten days of food, medications, and water at the ready.

It’s also important to have photocopies of veterinary records, such as vaccinations and rabies certificates. Pet descriptions, photographs, microchip numbers, and a contact phone number are also essential and should be stored in a waterproof container.

This is why Zoetis partners with American Humane to raise awareness of the importance of pet preparedness by distributing pet preparedness kits to pet owners in disaster endemic areas of the country over the past several years, most recently in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.

Past events show that having this information can drastically increase the chances of being reunited with a family dog or cat in the event of an emergency. For example, following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, over 15,000 animals were rescued—yet only 15 percent were reunited with their owners. Under-resourced shelters often do not have what it takes to identify every lost pet’s owner, so being prepared can make the difference in being able to recover a lost pet.

Whether it be hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or tornadoes, natural disasters of all kinds threaten humans and animals alike. Preparing your entire family, including your pets, for a disaster boosts survival odds for people and pets alike during major weather events.

Most pet owners don’t think about losing their pets due to natural disasters. But in the midst of both hurricane and tornado season and as other natural disasters batter the country, make sure you go the extra mile to prepare.


Dr. Tom Edling is the Chief Veterinary Officer at American Humane. Dr. Richard Goldstein is the Chief Medical Officer and Head of Medical Affairs at Zoetis. Learn more about how to prepare your pet for a natural disaster here.

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