Pets in an emergency situation

With Hurricane Florence now having arrived in North Carolina, I was reminded of how many pets had suffered in previous hurricanes of my experience, and how many will suffer now.

What to do with pets in a storm is a perennial question, challenging owners, activists and officials every hurricane season. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on Twitter, encouraged residents to consider their pets in their disaster preparations.

“Make a plan and practice it with them,” the agency encouraged.

Organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States have become more aggressive about responding to disasters, especially after Hurricane Katrina.

One poll after the devastating storm found that 44 percent of people who chose not to evacuate did so because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind. But still, many animals were abandoned — more than 100,000, according to the Louisiana SPCA. As many as 70,000 died throughout the Gulf Coast.

There’s more at the link.

I’ve always regarded my pets as part of the family:  our responsibility to care for as best we can.  If the time should ever arrive when we can’t care for them, it’s up to us to make alternate arrangements for them;  and if we can’t – if the emergency is so sudden or so great that we’ll be forced to abandon them – then we’d have to very seriously consider putting them down, rather than leave them to suffer.  That’s a very unpleasant step to consider, but I know people who’ve done it, particularly in Africa, where human life is given a higher priority than animal life.  When Portuguese residents had to flee for their lives from Angola and Mozambique after the collapse of the Portuguese colonies in the mid-1970’s, more than a few of them chose to shoot their pets rather than leave them to be slaughtered and eaten by locals, or wander, starving, until killed by a car, or snaffled up by some predator.  They were deeply saddened by it, and some mourned for years, but no-one questioned the necessity.  The alternative would have been much worse for the poor critters.

In the same way, extended economic crises sometimes raise the same issue.  In Venezuela, right now, it’s happening too.  People there are so down-and-out that they can no longer afford their pets, and can’t take them with them when they flee.

If life in Venezuela has become hard for humans, it has become even harder for many pets. With inflation soaring toward 1 million percent, dog food and veterinary care have spiraled out of reach for millions of people. One kilo — or 2.2 pounds — of dog food, for instance, now costs nearly the equivalent of three weeks’ salary for a minimum-wage worker.

The result, animal specialists say, has been an exploding population of abandoned dogs on the streets and rising numbers in underfunded shelters. Although there are no reliable national figures on the phenomenon, officials from eight shelters in the capital, Caracas, said they had seen a roughly 50 percent rise in the number of pets left at their facilities this year. At the same time, pet adoptions have a dropped by as much as a third, they said.

“People are being forced to choose their priorities, and dogs for the most part aren’t one of them,” said Esmeralda Larrosa, owner of the Kauna Animal Foundation, a Caracas shelter. Her facility, she said, is now struggling to feed its 125 dogs — including 15 that arrived within the previous two weeks. “The rise in abandonment we are seeing is simply crazy.”

. . .

“We mostly get malnourished dogs now,” she said. Three such canines were left at her door last month; two died within weeks.

For pets as well as people, the crisis here is likely to get worse.

Again, more at the link.

So, if you have pets, what emergency plans have you made for them?

  • Have you stockpiled extra food for them, as well as for your family?
  • If you have to “bug out” to get away from a disaster of any sort, have you planned how to take them with you?  Do you have pet carriers for them, and have you planned to leave space in your vehicle(s) for them, over and above your bug-out supplies?  Have you planned to pack their supplies (food, kitty litter, etc.) as well as your own?
  • Do you have a location in mind where they’ll be welcome?  If you go to a government or Red Cross shelter, the odds are very high that they won’t be allowed to accompany you.  In that case, are you willing to turn them loose by the side of the road, and abandon them?
  • Have you ever considered the reality that you might have to put down your pets, rather than abandon them?  That may be more than a theoretical possibility.  If it comes to that, are you willing to do what’s necessary – either through a vet, or, if worse comes to worst, yourself?  Have you prepared your family for that possibility?  If you haven’t, your kids may hate you forever for killing their beloved pet(s).  Think ahead about that.  If it has to be done, don’t let them see or hear it!

Those are brutal thoughts . . . but emergencies can be like that.  Far better to consider what might happen before it does, and plan accordingly.



  1. Excellent points about caring for your pets when crap hits the fan. However, I would NEVER willingly go to a government or even a Red Cross shelter. Among other negatives, neither would look kindly upon the rifle over my shoulder.

  2. I would hazard a guess that the only dogs being adopted in Venezuela are for guard duty purposes. No other reason would make sense in that starving nation. Hmm, except, possibly AS food. Wonder what it cost to adopt?

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