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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. There are many things pet owners can do to be prepared in the event of emergencies such as floods, cyclones or bushfires.


Three steps to your pet emergency plan

1. Include pets in your Emergency Survival Plan

  • Determine where your pets 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.
  • Train your pets to be settled in a cage / carrier / crate / horse float.
  • Train pets to become accustomed to car trips.
  • Keep vaccinations up-to-date and keep the certificate in a safe place.
  • Ensure that cats and dogs 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.
  • Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit for each pet in advance.
  • Schedule a time to practice your plan.

Late evacuation can be dangerous. To avoid unnecessary risks to you and your pets, 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 pets into temporary accommodation in a safe area well before there is any need to evacuate. Having your pets spend a short time away is better than taking the risk of not being able to take them if evacuation orders are issued.

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 in order to activate your plan quickly. The kit should include;

  • Registration certificates.
  • Vaccination certificates.
  • Transportation equipment (cages / carriers / crates / horse floats etc.).
  • Cat litter and tray.
  • Poo bags for dogs.
  • ID tag (including pets name and your mobile phone number), collars, leashes, harnesses, saddles etc.
  • Food and water bowls, and at least one week’s supply of non-refrigerated food.
  • Medications and clear instructions for treatment of any medical conditions.
  • Blankets / bedding / nesting material.
  • Toys
  • Photograph of your pets (including names) in sealed plastic bags.
  • Contact details for your vet, local animal shelter, local council and alternative animal accommodation facility.

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 below to see how your Pet Emergency Plan can work when needed;

Activating your Pet Emergency Plan

  • Small pets should be contained within the home at the first sign of an emergency. This ensures 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 for the special needs of some pets;
  • Carry birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice or other pocket pets in cages or in secure boxes with sufficient small air holes.
  • Put fish in a large wide-necked jar with a secure lid. Fill the jar two-thirds with water. Regularly blow through a straw into the water to aerate it.
  • Frogs may generally need a small covered tub with 2.5cm of water and air holes in the top.
  • Snakes and lizards need a container with a secure lid and air holes. They may also be transported in a sack or pillowcase that has been securely fastened at the opening.
  • As poultry and aviary birds are easily affected by smoke, make a hessian covering to fit the cage. To use, 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 1 week in accessible places and in more than one container that can’t be tipped over.
  • 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 mail box stating your mobile phone number, how many pets are located on the premises, their species, names and a photo.
  • Birds will require food dispensers that regulate the amount of food provided at any one time. Ideally these dispensers will be provided for all pets.
  • 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 you leave your pets outside:

  • Ensure there is plenty of water available from a source that does not rely on power or above ground pipes.
  • In a bushfire, move pets to a closely grazed or ploughed paddock (preferably around the homestead) with drinking water, steel fencing and preferably shade (Poultry can be placed in a temporary pen).
  • In a flood, move pets to high ground with adequate natural feed. Additional feed may be required for stock stranded for extended periods.
  • In a severe storm (including hail) or a cyclone, place pets under solid cover (e.g. sturdy barn / shed or covered pen).
  • Do not shut horses in stables or small fenced yards. Sand arenas, grazed down paddocks or similar bare areas are best.
  • High visibility pet coats and horse rugs with your mobile phone number can also be helpful to assist in the relocation of lost pets.
  • Do not place synthetic blankets on your horses.
  • Provide a minimum of 5 days’ supply of hay or ensure access to pasture.

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 take you to your State or Territory government emergency contacts:

Australian Capital Territory



New South Wales


South Australia

Western Australia

Northern Territory

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


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 October 21, 2022
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