General disaster FAQ
REMEMBER: If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets (or any other animals in your care). Please closely follow evacuation orders from authorities and always be prepared.
- How can I support the Humane Society of the United States' efforts to help animals impacted by natural disasters?
- What can the HSUS do to help during natural disasters?
- What should I do to keep my animals safe—and with me—during a disaster?
- Why do people leave their pets behind?
- I want to foster a displaced pet. Where can I go to sign up?
- My shelter can take animals. How can we help?
- I heard that a particular city or area needs help. Can you help?
- I can travel to an area impacted by one of the disasters. How can I help?
- What do I need to take when evacuating with my pet?
- What percentage of donations to the Emergency Animal Relief Fund goes toward disaster relief?
- What training/experience is needed to become an animal rescuer? Is it a full-time position?
- How can I join?
- How can I volunteer?
We never know where disasters will strike or when animals may be in need of urgent rescue, but we know we must be ready. Your support makes this lifesaving work possible.
How can I support the Humane Society of the United States' efforts to help animals impacted by natural disasters?
Please support rescue and relief efforts by donating to our Emergency Animal Rescue Fund. Your gift will ensure that our team can continue to answer the call during times of emergency wherever and whenever animals need us.
We make every effort during times of crisis to respond to needs—but only through requests from official agencies for field response or from shelters in the path of the storm/affected by the event. Our trained and certified Animal Rescue and Response team can deploy with agencies in charge of animal response, provide disaster recovery grants post-disaster and plan and train prior to disasters.
During an active disaster, the team can provide support by making room and resources available through transporting out already adoptable animals from shelters, assisting in establishing emergency shelters and rescuing stranded animals.
First, always have a disaster plan in place. You can also:
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to find out if they accept pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size and species. Inquire if a "no pet" policy would be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of animal-friendly places handy and call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home. The longer you wait, the less likely there will be vacancies at nearby locations.
- Consider a kennel or veterinarian's office outside of the affected area. Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in disasters and emergencies (and make sure to include their 24-hour telephone numbers).
- Check with your local animal shelter for post-disaster help. Some shelters may be able to provide foster care or shelter for pets in the aftermath of emergency situations. But keep in mind that shelters have limited resources and are likely to be stretched during a local emergency. Make sure all your pets are current on their vaccines and have copies of those records handy (some shelters require this before taking in animals).
Leaving a beloved pet behind when evacuating for disaster is not a choice anyone would ever want to have to make. Available transportation, shelter and financial restrictions can lead to an inability to take a beloved animal when evacuating. A fire, flashflood or tornado can happen when no one is home and safety restrictions prevent people from returning to collect their pets.
We always encourage people with pets to have a disaster preparedness plan to help keep their pets safe, evacuate with them and post signage on their doors and windows to notify emergency responders of the number and types of pet that maybe in the home so they can be evacuated. The Humane Society of the United States is assisting communities to ensure plans are in place to help residents with evacuation and shelter for them and their pets, so no animal needs to be left behind.
First and foremost, contact the animal control agency in the area you last saw your pet. There are several websites that also have information on animals rescued during the hurricanes. You can find an updated list of these sites at Find My Lost Pet. We encourage owners to try different search terms, as animals are sometimes labeled by different breeds then what owners have on paperwork.
I want to foster a displaced pet. Where can I go to sign up?
My shelter can take animals. How can we help?
Shelters outside of impacted areas able to transport or take in adoptable animals are encouraged to reach out and let those in need know that you can help.
I heard that a particular city or area needs help. Can you help?
In order for an out-of-state organization to assist in a federal disaster area, there has to be an official request from the appropriate agency or emergency official. If a group or agency is in need of help, we ask that they contact their local emergency officials, who—if assistance is needed—will get the request to us. These protocols are in place to ensure there is not chaos created by outside groups coming in unrequested, and to ensure the assistance is sent to where it is needed most.
I can travel to an area impacted by one of the disasters. How can I help?
Beyond trained responders who were contacted, it is imperative that no one goes to the area on their own or self-deploys. We won't be able to use volunteers who haven't gone through official training. If people who self-deploy come and get stranded, emergency response attention must then add them to the long list of rescues and divert attention away from the existing priority rescue work. It is simply too dangerous and also may result in lost/stray animals not going through the official systems that can ensure they are reunited with owners. If you are not a trained volunteer, but would like to become one, you can learn more about the requirements and fill out an application.
The best thing for out-of-state folks to do is to donate money and supplies to impacted shelters and those that are taking in animals. Please check with those organizations before sending supplies to make sure what you want to send is actually needed and helpful; many shelters will have lists of their top needs on their websites.
What do I need to take when evacuating with my pet?
If you are evacuating or relocating with your pet, see our disaster preparedness kit list to make sure you have everything you need to keep them healthy and safe.
What percentage of donations to the Emergency Animal Rescue Fund goes toward disaster relief?
Donations made to our Emergency Animal Rescue Fund are used for the Humane Society of the United States’ preparedness, rescue and relief efforts for disasters and cruelty and neglect cases. This includes paying for the care of animals, the cost of deploying resources to a location (such as staff, transport, etc.), increasing the infrastructure and capacity of our emergency response efforts through fundraising, education and awareness raising, the support of shelters and rescues taking animals from us, transporting animals from affected areas and, in some cases, long-term support of pets in the community going forward. Our priority is always to use donations in the most effective and efficient way possible so we are always ready to help animals in times of disaster or crisis.
Our Animal Rescue and Response team is made up of full-time staff and reserve staff that works on a contract basis. Team members have a variety of backgrounds, including backgrounds in local animal services.
Keep an eye on the Humane Society of the United States’ career page for open positions!
Please send us an application!