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Disaster Planning Tips for Pets, Livestock and Wildlife 


  • Polk County Brochure "Polk's Pets - Preparing for Disaster" 
  • Pet Shelter FAQs
  • Public Emergency Shelters - (includes list of pet friendly shelters)
  • Pet-friendly shelters have been established at Philip O’Brien Elementary School (26),
    Lakeland (formerly Lime Street Elementary); Lake Region High School (12), Eagle Lake; and
    Alta Vista Elementary School (14), Haines City.
    Due to space limitations, the sites will be
    strictly for pet-friendly groups and will be limited to providing shelter only for dogs, cats, birds
    and their owners. As in any other sheltering situation, consult the local media or Citizens Information Line
    to ensure a specific shelter is open and operating before proceeding to that facility. Additional
    shelter requirements include complete shot records for each pet, which will be reviewed
    upon arrival at the shelter; an airline-approved carrying case, in which each animal brought to the
    shelter will remain for the duration of their stay; food for the pet for at least a three-day period;
    and an agreement, signed by the pet owner upon registration, that confirms that the pet will
    be accompanied by an owner throughout the duration of the sheltering.
    Failure to comply with any of these items could preclude someone being able to enter the shelters.



    Whether it's a large-scale natural catastrophe or an unforeseen emergency that causes you to leave your home temporarily, everyone's family can benefit from having a household evacuation plan in place before disaster strikes. Every disaster plan must include your pets!

    • If you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Pets most likely cannot survive on their own; and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.

    • For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Find out which motels and hotels in your area allow pets --well in advance of needing them (there are two links at the bottom of this page directing you to motels and hotels that accept pets). Include your local animal shelter's number in your list of emergency numbers --they might be able to provide information concerning pets during a disaster.

    • Make sure identification tags and rabies tags are up to date and securely fastened to your pet's collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home. Have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes.

    • Make sure you have a secure pet carrier, leash or harness for your pet so that if he panics, he can't escape.

    • Take pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, cat litter/pan, can opener, food dishes, first aid kit and other supplies with you in case they're not available later. While the sun is still shining, consider packing a "pet survival" kit which could be easily deployed if disaster hits.

    • If you are unable to return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters need your pet's medical records to make sure vaccinations are current. Include copies in your "Pet Survival Kit" along with a photo of your pet.

    • If it is impossible to take your pet with you to temporary shelter, contact friends, family, veterinarians, or boarding kennels to arrange for care. Make sure medical and feeding information, food, medicine and other supplies accompany your pet to his foster home. NOTE: Some animal shelters will provide temporary foster care for owned pets in times of disaster, but this should be considered only as a last resort as shelters will fill up rapidly and usually they have only enough space for normal day to day operations

    • If you have no alternative but to leave your pet at home, there are some precautions you must take, but remember that leaving your pet at home alone can place it in great danger! Confine your pet to a safe area inside --NEVER leave your pet chained outside! Place a notice outside in a visible area, advising what pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a contact can be reached, as well as the name and number of your vet.

    • Not only are pets affected by disaster, but other animals in the disaster area are affected as well.


    Wild animals often seek higher ground which, during floods, eventually become isolated by flood waters (i.e., island) and the animals become stranded. If the island is large enough and provides suitable shelter, you can leave food appropriate to the species (i.e., sunflower seeds for squirrels). Animals have a flight response and will flee from anyone approaching too closely. If the animal threatens to rush into the water, back away from the island or you may frighten the animal into jumping into the water to escape from you.

    • Wildlife often seek refuge from flood waters on upper levels of a home and may remain inside even after the water recedes. If you meet a rat or snake face to face, be careful, but don't panic. Open a window or other escape route and the animal will probably leave on its own. Never attempt to capture a wild animal unless you have the training, protective clothing, restraint equipment and caging necessary to perform the job.

    • Beware of an increased number of snakes and other predators who will try to feed on the carcasses of reptiles, amphibians and small mammals who have been drowned or crushed in their burrows or under rocks.

    • Often, during natural disasters, mosquitoes and dead animal carcasses may present disease problems. Outbreaks of anthrax, encephalitis and other diseases may occur. Contact your local emergency management office for help!

    • If you see an injured or stranded animal in need of assistance, or you need help with evicting an animal from your home, please contact your local animal control office or animal shelter!


    EVACUATE LIVESTOCK WHENEVER POSSIBLE. Arrangements for evacuation, including routes and host sites, should be made in advance. Alternate routes should be mapped out in case the planned route is inaccessible.

    • The evacuation sites should have or be able to readily obtain food, water, veterinary care, handling equipment and facilities.

    • Trucks, trailers, and other vehicles suitable for transporting livestock (appropriate for transporting each specific type of animal) should be available along with experienced handlers and drivers to transport them. Whenever possible, the animals should be accustomed to these vehicles in advance so they're less frightened and easier to move.

    • If evacuation is not possible, a decision must be made whether to move large animals to available shelter or turn them outside. This decision should be determined based on the type of disaster and the soundness and location of the shelter (structure).

    • All animals should have some form of identification that will help facilitate their return.

    • Persons owning herds of livestock will not be able to evacuate their animals. The biggest problem in these cases is flooding and downed fences caused by fallen trees.

    Your disaster plan should include a list of emergency phone numbers for local agencies that can assist you if a disaster strikes, including your veterinarian, the Humane Society and S.P.C.A., Polk County Animal Services, Sheriffs Office Agricultural Unit, The County Extension Service, local agricultural schools and livestock associations and the American Red Cross. These numbers should be kept with your disaster kit in a secure, but easily accessible place.


    • Bottles of water

    • Pet food (if dry food, it should be stored in plastic zip lock bags to prevent it from getting wet)

    • Manual can opener

    • Medicines

    • Heartworm preventative

    • First aid kit

    • Bandaging supplies

    • Antibiotic ointment

    • Pet carrier (this is an extremely important item as it can be used as a cage since sheltering space will be limited)

    • Collar or harness (The pets animal license and/or rabies tag should be attached. The collar or harness should be worn by the pet at all times).

    • Leash

    • Pet waste removal supplies

    • Cat litter (the clumping type is lower volume)

    • Litter pans (small disposable tin cake pans are best)

    • Scoop to remove waste

    • Plenty of newspapers (store inside a plastic garbage bag to keep dry)

    • Plastic garbage bags to store waste in

    Polk County Hotels and Motels where you and your pet are welcome.

    If you are planning to leave Polk County, visit http://www.dogfriendly.com/ for hotels and motels that accept pets.