Emergency Preparedness Plan for Exotic Pets

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Get ready now to care for exotic pets during an accident or natural catastrophe that causes great damage or even loss of life, such as blizzard, earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane, mud slide, or tornado. This disaster relief client education handout was revised and posted with permission from “Ready-Pets-Go!” by Lollypop Farm Humane Society of Greater Rochester.

Download the client handout and checklist

General checklist

At least 1 week supply of food for each pet* First Aid Kit
At least 1 week supply of water for each pet**Photograph(s) of each animal
2-week supply of medicationShoebox size litter box (ferret, rabbit)
Food and water bowlsVaccinations are up-to-date
Keep a copy of each animal’s medical recordsWritten veterinary authorization for pet sitter and “buddy” (see Before a Disaster Event below)
* Store dry food in an airtight/water-proof container. For canned food, purchase the flip top cans or keep a can opener with disaster supplies.
**Do not let animals drink flood water or any other water sources that may be contaminated. If you are drinking bottled water or purified water during a disaster, that is what your animals should also be drinking.

Bird and reptile checklist

Small, secure, escape-proof carrier for each animal (optional pillowcase or cloth bag for reptiles, plus extra bags)External heat source for reptiles (heating pad, battery-operated heat source, extra batteries)
Spray bottle for misting birds and reptiles in hot weatherNewspaper or some other cage liner
Toys for pet birdsPortable digital thermometer and/or hygrometer

Preparation well in advance of a disaster event

Consider a permanent form of identification, such as microchip or tattoo. This technique is not always practical in all exotic pets, and unfortunately many lay volunteers may not know to look for this method of identification (Swenson 2009).

Owners should keep quality frontal and profile photographs of their pets on hand to identify the animals during separation. These photos should include any distinguishing markings along with family photos that show ownership in the event you need to claim your pet. Store these pictures in a re-sealable plastic bag with important insurance papers that would be taken away during evacuation.

Familiarize your pets with their carriers by loading them into the cages. Use food as an enticement if necessary. When an emergency comes, you want the animal to enter willingly and without delay.

Discuss your disaster plan with pet sitters.

Before a disaster event

Create a disaster kit, including water and food supplies, water and food bowls, a first aid kit, medications, medical records, familiar toys, cleaning supplies, and a contact card.

Designate a family member to be in charge of animals. Have them practice an emergency drill.

Develop a “mutual aid” agreement or “buddy system” with a neighbor, to check on each other’s animals during a disaster if one of you are out of the area and cannot return during an emergency. Exchange information on veterinarians and have written authorization on file with your veterinarian, authorizing your pet sitter or “buddy” to get necessary emergency treatment for your animal.

Will all of your animals be able to fit in your vehicle? If not, develop an alternate plan.

Identify several possible locations where you can take your animals should you have to evacuate. Depending on the species involved, this could include veterinary hospitals with boarding space, the homes of friends and family members, and hotels that allow animals.

The PETS Act (H.R. 3858) was developed following Hurricane Katrina and signed into federal law in 2006. This amendment helps to ensure local and state emergency preparedness plans include household pets and service animals, and it authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide rescue, care, resources, and shelter.

Note: Red Cross evacuation shelters do not allow animals, other than seeing eye dogs and other recognized service dogs.


During a disaster event

red lightCage all animals. Continue to feed your animal its regular diet as close to the usual time as possible to minimize stress.
yellow lightLoad stored emergency gear and animals.

Turn off electricity, water main, and/or gas.
green lightLock up and get out!



American Humane Association. Fact Sheet: Disaster preparedness for pet owners. Updated on August 26, 2016.

American Veterinary Medical Association. Emergency Preparedness and Response. Revised April 2012. Available at https://ebusiness.avma.org/files/productdownloads/emerg_prep_resp_guide.pdf. Accessed May 8, 2017.

Code 3 Associates, Inc. Animal Welfare. Plan at home. Code 3 web site. Available at http://code3associates.org/disaster-response/plan-at-home/. Accessed May 8, 2017.

Humane Society of Greater Rochester. Ready-Pets-Go! Disaster Prep Available at http://www.lollypop.org/pet-care-and-training-overview/planning-for-your-pets/ready-pets-go-disaster-prep/. Accessed January 18, 2017.

Murray JK. Disaster planning for pets. ExoticsCon 2015 Main Conference Proceedings: 309-318.

Swenson, LA. Records and animal identification. In: Wingfield, WE, Palmer SB, eds. Veterinary Disaster Response. Ames IA: Wiley- Blackwell;2009:73-84.