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What preparations should I make for my pets in case of an emergency?

Emergency planning for pets is an important part of emergency household preparations and greatly increases the likelihood of evacuating your pets to safety if that is necessary.

As well as being prepared for the need to evacuate, you should also be prepared to shelter in place (i.e. if it is safe to stay at home but you cannot leave as travel is unsafe or not possible and services like running water and electricity are unavailable).

There are many things pet owners can do to be prepared in the event of emergencies such as floods, cyclones, or bushfires. This article specifically relates to emergency preparedness for companion animals. For information on emergency preparedness for farm animals, see this article.


Three steps to your pet emergency plan

1. Include companion animals in your Emergency Survival Plan

  • Determine where your companion animals will be relocated to if you need to evacuate. This may be a boarding facility, or a family member or friend located in a safe area. Keep in mind that the premise may have specific requirements – for example, boarding facilities require that pets are up-to-date with vaccinations. For more specific information on planning for an evacuation, see this article.
  • Use reward-based training to train your companion animals to easily enter and be settled in a cage / carrier / crate.
  • Use reward-based training to get your companion animals accustomed to car trips.
  • Keep vaccinations up-to-date and keep the certificate in a safe place.
  • Ensure that cats and dogs (and other companion animals where feasible for the species) are microchipped and have an ID tag including their name and your mobile phone number.
  • Ensure that contact details are up-to-date on the microchip register. Dogs should also be registered with your local council where this is required.
  • Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit for each companion animal in advance.
  • Organise at least one emergency contact who could help if you are unable to get to your home but need someone to evacuate or look after your companion animals, such as a trusted neighbour or local friend. We have prepared an Emergency Animal Authorisation form that you can fill out and give to your emergency contact. This form helps authorise them to access your home to care for your animal and make decisions for your animal on your behalf (for example, if your animal needs veterinary care).
  • Schedule a time to practice your plan.

Late evacuation can be dangerous. To avoid unnecessary risks to you and your companion animals, move them to a safe place as soon as possible. If you know an evacuation order could occur in the near future, consider moving your companion animals into temporary accommodation in a safe area well before there is any need to evacuate. Having your companion animals spend a short time away from home is better than taking the risk of not being able to take them if evacuation orders are issued.

Remember that, if where you are is not safe for you, it is not safe for your animals.

2. Prepare your Pet Emergency Kit

Preparing a pet emergency kit is an essential part of your planning process. It will ensure that you have everything you need to be able to activate your plan quickly. The kit should include the following items (as relevant for the companion animals you have):

  • Important documentation
    • Registration certificates where applicable.
    • Vaccination certificates and veterinary medical records.
    • Photographs of your pets (including their names). Ideally, have photos of you with your animals too – this may assist in identifying you as the legal owner.
    • Contact details for your vet, local animal shelter, local council, and alternative animal accommodation facility.
    • Pet insurance details (if applicable).
    • Keep important documents like photos, medical and vaccination records, microchip details, contact lists in a waterproof container and keep a copy of electronically too (e.g., in the Cloud, Dropbox, or webmail).
  • Transportation and safety equipment
    • Cages / carriers / crates etc. sufficient to transport all your animals safely and comfortably.
    • Leash and harness (and a muzzle just in case) for each dog.
  • Sanitation supplies
    • Cat litter, tray, and litter scoop.
    • Poo bags for dogs.
    • Other useful items include paper towel, newspaper, gloves, and a pet-friendly disinfectant cleaner.
  • Identification
    • Make sure your animal is microchipped and that their microchip is registered. There are a number of animal microchip registries in Australia with which you can register an existing microchip, links to all of these can be found at Pet Address. For registered chips, information can be found at Pet Address, which will redirect you to the database that lists your animal’s microchip number, so that you may contact them directly.
    • ID tag (including pets name and your mobile phone number) on your animal’s collar.
    • Registration tag on your animal’s collar (where applicable).
  • Food and water
    • Food and water bowls.
    • At least one week’s supply of food that does not need to be refrigerated. If you have cans of food, remember to include a can opener. It is important to keep your animal on as similar a diet as possible to what they eat normally to prevent gastrointestinal upsets.
    • You will also need at least five days of water for your pets, in addition to any water in your own survival kit.
  • Veterinary/medical
    • Pet first aid kit, including any medications your animal needs.
    • Talk to your vet about what you should have in your pet first aid kit.
    • Clear instructions for treatment of any medical conditions in a waterproof container.
  • Blankets / bedding / nesting material.
  • Toys.

Consider having two kits:

  • a getaway survival kit that has everything you need in case you need to evacuate but is lightweight and portable.
  • a home survival kit with everything you may need to stay at home for up to three days without services such as water/electricity/refrigeration etc.

Make sure that your pet emergency kits are easy to grab in a hurry and that everyone in your home and your emergency contact knows where they are.

Schedule regular checks of your kits to ensure supplies stay fresh – especially food, water, and medicines. Water should be replaced every six months to ensure freshness. Food and medicines should be replaced based on their use-by-date. It is helpful to schedule a reminder in your phone or calendar to check/refresh your kit regularly as needed based on expiry dates/every six months. Think about printing and filling out “Animals Inside Cards” and putting on your doors/windows to alert first responders that you have animal(s) in your home needing assistance in case of emergency. You can also put a “pets home alone” tag on your keychain/card in your wallet with the details of every animal you have at home.

3. Practice your Survival Plan

Practicing your emergency survival plan is a vital part of your preparation. Practice will help you to refine your plan and prevent panic in the event of a real emergency.

Your Pet Emergency Plan should form a key part of your overall Bushfire Survival Plan.

Watch this informative video to see how your Pet Emergency Plan can work when needed:

Activating your Pet Emergency Plan

  • Small companion animals should be contained within the home at the first sign of an emergency. This ensures you know where they are and they are close at hand if you make the decision to evacuate.
  • Phone ahead to confirm arrangements with the safe location you have designated in your emergency plan.
  • Pack your Pet Emergency Kit in your vehicle.
  • Allow additional time if your companion animal has special needs.
  • Carry birds and small mammals (e.g., rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, ferrets) in cages or in secure boxes with sufficient small air holes for adequate ventilation. Your animals will need to be transferred to a suitable enclosure as soon as possible.
  • Transporting your fish safely requires specific equipment and preparation and the survival of your fish can depend on this. For information on preparing an emergency fish transport plan and kit, see this article. They will need to be transferred to a suitable tank as soon as possible.
  • Frogs should be kept moist in a warm, dark environment that is as stress-free as possible. A clean ventilated plastic container with a clean and damp cloth inside is a good option for transporting frogs. Make sure the container is escape proof and remember that frogs can squeeze out of very small gaps. They will need to be transferred to a suitable enclosure as soon as possible.
  • Reptiles such as snakes and lizards need a container with a secure lid and air holes. They will need to be transferred to a suitable enclosure as soon as possible.
  • As birds (including chickens, ducks, and aviary birds) are easily affected by smoke, make a hessian covering to fit their cage. If the air is smoky when you need to evacuate, wet down the covering and secure around the outside of the cage.

If you must leave your pets behind

Pets should not be abandoned unless it is absolutely impossible to evacuate them. To avoid this situation, consider evacuating your pets before the danger arises. If you are forced to leave your pets behind, be sure to follow the advice below:

  • Do not tether pets (i.e., do not tie them up) as they will be unable to flee if danger is imminent.
  • Provide food and water for at least one week in accessible places and in more than one container that can’t be tipped over. Make sure the food will not go off (i.e. leave dry food rather than canned or fresh food).
  • Ensure pets are properly identified (e.g., a collar with an ID tag and microchip).
  • Leave a note on the front door or on your mailbox stating your mobile phone number, how many pets are located on the premises, their species, names, and a photo of each animal.
  • Birds will require food dispensers that regulate the amount of food provided at any one time.
  • In the case of flood, position a heavy chair or crate to allow access to a higher refuge such as a bench, vanity unit or shelf where adequate food and water should be left.
  • If pets are outside:
    • Ensure there is plenty of water available from a source that does not rely on power or above ground pipes.
    • In a severe storm (including hail) or a cyclone, place pets under solid cover (e.g., sturdy barn / shed or covered pen).
    • In a bushfire, animals should be situated in an area that is bare (e.g., closely grazed or ploughed paddock) to reduce the fire risk. Do not place synthetic blankets or coats on your animals if there is fire risk.

Stay informed

Being aware of your situation allows you to make informed decisions about your safety and the safety of your pets and family and greatly increases the likelihood of you evacuating safely.

The following links will help you find your State or Territory government emergency contacts:

Australian Capital Territory



New South Wales


South Australia

Western Australia

Northern Territory

Consider signing up to alerts from your local emergency agency and following emergency services on social media.

If you do not have internet access, local radio television and telephone hotlines are widely available sources of information during an emergency situation.

See this article for more information on staying informed.


There are some simple but important steps you can take to ensure the health and safety of your own pets and neighbours’ pets in the case of an emergency. We have prepared these interactive PDFs to help you prepare your emergency plan for your animals:


The Pet Emergency Plan initiative is funded by the Natural Disaster Resilience Program, and has been developed by RSPCA South Australia in partnership with the Commonwealth and State Government of South Australia.

Also Read

Updated on May 1, 2024
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  • Pet Ownership

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