SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Animals in emergencies

Recent natural disasters both here in New Zealand and around the world have shown that we all need a plan for emergency or disaster situations.

Household plans must account for all members of the family and this includes your animals. Advanced preparation for your animals is as important as it is for other members of your household.

There are three essential steps that should be taken in preparation for any emergency:

  • Create an emergency plan
  • Prepare a get-away kit with provisions for your animals
  • Prepare a full survival kit with provisions for your animals

This will ensure that all members of your household are prepared for and know what to do in an emergency situation.

Have a plan

You must take your animal(s) with you should you have to leave your home or the area. Your animals cannot survive without you and you may not be able to return to your property for several days. Remember if it is unsafe for you to remain in your home, it is unsafe for your animals as well.

Discuss your emergency plan with your family or household so everyone knows what to do. Practice your plan and make sure a copy of it is readily available (e.g. posted on the fridge).

The following steps can help you prepare your household and your animals for an emergency situation:

  • Make emergency arrangements with friends or relatives outside your neighbourhood or area.
  • Keep contact details of “pet-friendly” hotels and motels in case you have to evacuate your home or neighbourhood.
  • Attach a permanent disc to your animal’s collar with your name, address and contact number.
  • Microchip all your animals and ensure microchip and dog registration details are up to date. Keep an out of area secondary contact listed on the microchip database (New Zealand Companion Animal Register, NZCAR).
  • Keep photos of your animals electronically (e.g. webmail) including photos of you with your animals.
  • If you have domestic animals or livestock ensure you have an emergency plan so they are secure, have food, water and shelter. Be aware of which paddocks can be used to move livestock away from hazards such as floodwaters and power lines.

You can find out more about preparing for an emergency on the Get Ready Get Thru and the Happens websites.

A get-away kit is a 'grab-and-run' kit that will allow you to look after your animals immediately after a disaster. Ideally you should store this by a door or in an easily accessible place.

Get-away Kit

Your get-away kit should include:

  • Containment:
    • A carrier for each small animal (labelled with your name, contact number and address)
    • Lead, collar (animal name, contact number address) and muzzle for each dog
  • Records:
    • Vaccinations and veterinary history
    • Registration and microchip information
    • Photographs of your animals (with online backup) including a photo of you together with your animals
  • Blanket/bedding
  • Food/treats and bottled water
  • Food/water bowls
  • Plastic bags/doggie bags/gloves
  • Medications
  • Animal first aid kit and a basic animal aid first aid book. You can find information on first aid kits for animals on the Ministry for Primary Industries website
  • A list of pet friendly safe houses (friends/family) or safe shelters (e.g. kennels, catteries, pet friendly hotels)

It is essential that your animal is microchipped; this will ensure you are reunited if you become separated. After the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes microchipping was associated with enhanced rates of owner/animal reunification.

After an emergency or disaster you may need to shelter in place; however, food, water and power supply may be disrupted or limited. A Pet Disaster Survival Kit can ensure that you are prepared and can take care of your animal(s) after an event.

Pet Disaster Survival Kit

While you may not be able to reach it during the initial emergency it may be a crucial resource that you can use to support your animal afterwards.

Your Pet Disaster Survival Kit should include:

  • Containment:
    • A pet carrier for each small animal (labelled with your name, contact number and address)
    • Lead, collar (animal name, contact number and address) and muzzle for each dog
  • Rope
  • Towels/blankets (used blankets provide a familiar smell that is reassuring)
  • A set of pet identification documents
  • Records:
    • Vaccinations and veterinary history
    • Registration and microchip information
    • Photographs of your animals (with online backup) including a photo of you together with your animals
  • Food and water (for five days)
  • Medication (if needed) for five days
  • Extra bowls for food and water
  • Familiar toys
  • Tin opener
  • Emergency contact list for your local authorities, vet and animal rescue centre
  • Litter tray and litter
  • Plastic bags/doggie bags/gloves
  • Newspaper
  • Cleaning solution
  • Container to carry everything
  • Animal first aid kit and a basic animal aid first aid book. You can find information on first aid kits for animals on the Ministry for Primary Industries website

During an emergency you need to make sure you and your family are safe; however, your animals are your responsibility too and this remains true even in the event of an emergency.

In an emergency, if it is safe to do so, leave a note on the front door for emergency services stating that you and your animals have left the property.

SPCA National Rescue Unit

SPCA’s National Rescue Unit (NRU), based in Wellington is comprised of a group of internationally qualified emergency response volunteers who provide a technical rescue service for trapped animals, as well as responding to disasters that may strike.

The SPCA in Wellington founded the NRU in 1995 and is the only SPCA centre in New Zealand to have such a specialist rescue capability, epitomised by the rescue of over 70 animals from the red zone immediately following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and over 900 animals during the 2017 Edgecumbe flooding.

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