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.

Learn more about how the Humane Society of the United States helps people and animals during disasters.

Put together your disaster kit.

Use our checklist to assemble an emergency kit for yourself and all your pets. During disasters, creating an emergency plan can be a lifesaver.

Emergency kit, including pet food, a carrier, litter, water, toys, medications, water, towels, etc
Meredith Lee / The HSUS

What should I do to keep my animals safe during a disaster?

Learn more about pet disaster preparedness, including how to plan, create a disaster kit, evacuate safely with your animals and more.

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Why do people leave their pets behind?

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, flash flood 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.

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Where can owners find their pets if they were separated during evacuation or rescue efforts?

Try contacting the animal control agency in the area you last saw your pet, as well as surrounding areas in case your pet was picked up and taken to a nearby shelter. 

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I want to foster a displaced pet. Where can I go to sign up?

We encourage you to reach out to our Shelter and Rescue Partners near you to see if fosters are needed.

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My shelter can take animals. How can we help?

Only adoptable animals in disaster-impacted shelters are immediately available for transport. All disaster animals are held to give their families time to find their pets. Shelters outside of impacted areas able to transport or take in adoptable animals are encouraged to reach out and let those in need know you can help.

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Emergency Animal Relief Fund

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.

Cat rescued during Hurricane Florence response
Meredith Lee / The HSUS

I can travel to an area impacted by one of the disasters. How can I help?

Beyond trained responders who were directly 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.

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I found an animal in the disaster community. What should I do?

Any animal found in a disaster zone should be taken to the local animal control, shelter or emergency shelter set up to house disaster-impacted animals. Taking an animal to another city/county/state will make it harder for families to reunite with their pets. Local authorities are hard at work locating and reuniting every animal they can find.

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Disasters FAQ

Learn more about our animal rescue efforts that take place during hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and more.

Field responders pushing a boat to shore with cats on board
Responders pushing a boat to shore with rescued cats on board during Hurricane Florence in 2018. Meredith Lee / The HSUS

I’m worried about wildlife. How can I help them before/during a disaster?

Extreme weather events like wildfires can kill wild animals, either from the fire itself, through smoke inhalation or through loss of habitat. Animals who are very young, old or otherwise unable to move away quickly are particularly vulnerable.

Wild animals cope with wildfires in a variety of ways. Most birds will escape easily by flying away. Mountain lions’ keen sense of smell makes them among the first animals to perceive the threat of a fire, but development and roads can block their safe escape. Other large mammals, such as elk, typically run to escape or wade into streams or lakes to wait out a passing wildfire. Small creatures such as chipmunks, ground squirrels, mice and lizards can often survive a wildfire by going into underground burrows, where temperatures can remain as low as 70 degrees. Some may hide under rocks, and, when possible, amphibians bury themselves in mud.

  • Do everything you can to allow fleeing animals to pass through. Wild animals have strong fight or flight responses and are extremely resilient; many will have the ability to escape the flames. If you see animals that are injured or clearly compromised, call your local animal control or wildlife rehabilitator. Signs that a wild animal may need intervention include compromised breathing or unstable walking, which could be due to burned pads, soles or hooves.
  • Clear fire buffer zones around your property. Based on the habitat and fire history, these could be 10-foot buffers to 100-foot buffers. Cut vegetation low and remove unnecessary fuel, stacked firewood, abandoned vehicles and other clutter.
  • Honor and promote fire bans during high fire-risk weather.
  • Have water reservoirs and the capability to wet down buildings and habitat when a fire is approaching.
  • Before evacuating, fill shallow containers (or stock tanks, if they have wildlife ladders in them) with water. Drinkable water can mean extended life in burnt-out areas.
  • Fill up bird feeders. More birds than you imagine are aware that there is a source of food available in your yard.

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I want to donate supplies for local animal shelters. What should I send?

The best thing for out-of-state folks to do is to donate money, gift cards and/or 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 helpful; many shelters will share lists of their priority needs on their websites or social media accounts.

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What training/experience is needed to become an animal rescuer? Is it a full-time position?

Our Animal Rescue 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.

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How can I join?

Keep an eye on our Careers page for open positions!

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How can I volunteer?

Please send us an application!

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