Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Include Animals in Your Disaster Preparedness Plan

Pet Column for the week of May 31, 2011

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Services - Human-Animal Bond

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Brittany Way
Information Specialist

If your part of the world is at risk for a tornado, blizzard, or hurricane, you should have a severe weather response plan that covers not only your family but also your animals.

Dr. Suzett Hexum, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and a veterinarian with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, offers animal owners these tips for natural disaster readiness.

At your next trip to the clinic, ask your veterinarian what you can do to prepare. For example, microchipping your pet now can be a lifesaver if your pet is separated from you during a natural disaster.

If your animal is sometimes boarded or stabled away from your home, make sure the business has an emergency response plan that covers natural disasters, fire, and other threatening situations. Ask to see the plan.

If you must evacuate your home, preparations will be different for small vs. large animals. You may be able to place small animals in a carrier with food, water, and proper identification and bring them with you to the evacuation shelter. Call ahead to ensure that the shelter will accept pets and to find out if there are any requirements or restrictions. In the event you don't have a place to shelter your animals, have a plan worked out with family or friends who might not be in path of danger.

Exotic animal pets, such as lizards, snakes, and birds, may be less likely to be accepted at an evacuation shelter, in part because there may be a negative public perception of these animals. If you are able to take them with you, be sure to bring a blanket to cover their tank. It's best to pre-arrange an alternative location with family or friends.

Large animals pose a much greater challenge because they are not accepted in shelters. In some instances the state may provide assistance in sheltering large animals; health papers or a health examination at a state inspection station will likely be required before the animal is allowed in the shelter destination. Large animal owners should be prepared with access to trailers, feed, health papers, and an alternative place to house the animals in the event of a natural disaster.

Dr. Hexum recommends that all animal owners watch a video about disaster preparedness available on the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association:

If you have further questions contact your local veterinarian or visit