Brownie, a beloved family pet, and her owner found themselves homeless after the devastating Kentucky floods that damaged various regions across the state, leaving the commonwealth in a nationally declared state of disaster. Of the few places that offered temporary shelter, none allowed pets.
"I just wasn't going to leave Brownie behind," her owner said. "He's the only family I've got."
Pets are family, too
Sadly, stories like Brownie's are all too familiar. As pet owners, our furry friends hold a special place in our hearts, and their safety and well-being are top priorities. Pets have become such integral family members that 90 percent of pet owners say they would not evacuate if their pets couldn't come with them—yet only a small percentage of emergency relief shelters are pet friendly.
That's why, in 2022, PetSmart Charities and the American Red Cross embarked on a partnership to support pets as essential family members during times of disaster. PetSmart Charities supports Red Cross Disaster Relief as a member of the Annual Disaster Giving Program with a three-year pledge of more than $2 million. The innovative collaboration will help the Red Cross meet the needs of people and their pets affected by disasters big and small across the U.S. This partnership is the first of its kind between two foundational nonprofits — the leading funder of animal welfare and the largest disaster relief organization in the country.
Helping pets by helping their people
Fortunately, Brownie and her owner finally came across the help they needed. They found refuge together at a Red Cross emergency shelter with a pet-friendly policy. And they weren't the only family with pets seeking shelter together. They were joined by a handful of families and pets in need, including six dogs, two cats, and three ferrets.
PetSmart Charities' investment in the Red Cross helps ensure that pets are included in disaster planning, response, and recovery to keep pets and people together during times of crisis. Realizing that pets are part of the family, the Red Cross began efforts to identify specific emergency shelters across the country for those accompanied by pets. Thanks to our partnership, these efforts can reach new heights by combining our animal welfare expertise with the Red Cross disaster response resources.
The Checklist: Evacuating with Your Pet
A well-thought-out plan that includes your furry companion is critical. Here is a checklist to help you prepare for and navigate the process of evacuating with your pet.
Identification and Documentation:
- Update your pet's identification tags
- Have recent photographs of you with your pet to assist with identification.
- Keep a copy of your pet's medical records, vaccinations, and essential medications in a waterproof container and have them available electronically.
- Enough food and water for at least five days
- Bowls and a can opener (if needed for canned food)
- Medications and first-aid supplies.
- A leash, harness, or carrier to transport your pet.
- Comfort items to reduce stress.
- Sanitation needs such as pet litter and litter box, paper towels and waste bags
- Identify pet-friendly hotels, motels, or boarding facilities in advance.
- Reach out to friends or family members who may be willing to provide a safe haven for your pet.
- Contact local animal shelters or veterinary clinics for temporary housing options.
- Plan how you will transport your pet during an evacuation.
- Ensure your vehicle has necessary supplies such as pet carriers, restraints, and blankets.
- If relying on public transportation, research pet policies and restrictions beforehand.
- Compile a list that includes your veterinarian, local animal shelters, and pet-friendly accommodations.
- Share this information with a trusted friend or family member who can assist during an emergency.
Practice and Preparation:
- Practice evacuating with your pet, using different routes and methods of transportation.
- Familiarize your pet with its carrier or leash to reduce anxiety during stressful situations.
- Keep your pet's emergency supplies accessible and well-stocked.
- Learn how to help your pet if they are injured by downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid app, or taking the Red Cross Pet First Aid course.
- Keep a list of emergency, family, and work contacts.
- Refer to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites for official information from emergency management agencies, such as your local Red Cross.
Creating comfort for people and pets
The Red Cross responds to more than 60,000 disasters across the country every year, giving people comfort and hope during the worst days of their lives. As large disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires increase in frequency and intensity, it's more important than ever to include pets as family members in relief efforts to prevent an increase in displaced populations who need support.
For families of pets like Ellie Rene and Pepe (featured below), disaster relief inclusion made a world of difference. Their owner sought shelter with the Red Cross at the Les Miller Community Center in Tampa as Hurricane Ian ravaged his Florida community. He was happy to find that there were accommodations for pets at the shelter.
"The Red Cross even had food for my animals," he exclaimed.
Thanks to the partnership between PetSmart Charities and the Red Cross, pet owners can access valuable resources and information to help them navigate these challenging situations. By following the checklist in this blog post, you can ensure that your pet is well-prepared and protected during times of crisis. Remember, taking proactive measures today can make all the difference in safeguarding the furry members of your family tomorrow.