Prepare the family pets for wildfire evacuation

The American Red Cross encourages California residents to create an emergency kit and plan for each family member, including the family pets. Valley News/Courtesy photo

LOS ANGELES – It’s wildfire season in California, and everyone should be prepared to evacuate their home if needed – but don’t forget Fluffy. The American Red Cross Los Angeles Region reminded pet owners that their furry friends are dependent on them for their safety during an emergency. The family’s disaster plans must include pets, and suggested several steps families can take to help keep their beloved pets safe.

“The best way to protect your household from a disaster is to have a plan and making sure to include your pets can save time during an emergency and minimize confusion,” Guillermo Sanchez, preparedness and resiliency manager for the American Red Cross in Los Angeles, said. “We should plan for pets just like we would plan for people, setting aside emergency supplies and making sure we know a safe place to take our pets in case of an evacuation.”

When it’s not safe for people to be at home, it’s not safe for pets either. Make an evacuation plan that includes everyone at home and their pets. Many hotels and shelters do not accept animals, so plan ahead when making overnight plans. And, when packing a disaster kit, assemble one for family pet too.

Create an emergency plan for the family pet.

Include pets in the family disaster plan. Take these five things into consideration.

Know which hotels and motels along the evacuation route will accept pets in an emergency. Call ahead for reservations if possible. Ask if “no pet” policies could be waived in an emergency. Most Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns and other considerations. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in Red Cross shelters.

Know which friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters or veterinarians can care for the family’s animals in an emergency. Prepare a list with phone numbers.

Although the family’s animals may be more comfortable together, be prepared to house them separately, if necessary.

Include pets in evacuation drills so that they become used to entering and traveling in their carriers calmly.

Make sure that each pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease. Consider having pets “microchipped” by the veterinarian.

Assemble an emergency kit for each pet.

Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers so that they can be carried easily.

Pack sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.

Include food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener if a pet eats canned food.

Medications and copies of medical records can be stored in a waterproof container with a first-aid kit.

Add current photos of the family with the pet in case they get lost. Since many pets look alike, it will help to eliminate mistaken identity and confusion.

Remember to record a pet’s feeding schedule, medical conditions, behavior problems and the name and number of the local veterinarian in case they go into foster care.

Pack the pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

Download the American Red Cross app.

Pet owners can download the Red Cross Pet First Aid app for veterinary advice for everyday pet emergencies at their fingertips. The free app features videos, quizzes and step-by-step advice on pet first aid and includes emergency preparedness information. Red Cross apps can be found in smartphone app stores by searching for American Red Cross or going to

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit or, or find them on Twitter at @RedCrossLA or @CruzRojaLA.

Submitted by American Red Cross.