Lessons from Katrina Save Pets in Sandy’s Path

Save Pets

Story at-a-glance -

  • Some good disaster news for a change: lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have helped save the lives of countless pets affected by superstorm Sandy.
  • Before and during Sandy, shelters and public transportation throughout New York City accommodated not only humans, but four-legged evacuees as well. Legislation passed after Katrina now allows FEMA to allocate funds to take care of pets in disaster zones.
  • If you live in an area that may be in the path of hurricanes, winter storms, or other natural disasters, you should plan ahead now for how you’ll care for your pet in an emergency.

By Dr. Becker

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some estimates are that over 600,000 pets were left homeless or killed. I remember picture after heart-wrenching picture of sad-eyed dogs and terrified cats left behind in abandoned buildings or on the street.

One of the biggest problems for Katrina's pets and their owners was that most emergency shelters didn't allow dogs and cats. Fortunately, legislation was passed in 2006 in response to the Katrina tragedy that makes it mandatory for local and state governments to provide for pets and service animals in their emergency procedures.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Safety Act (PETS) gave FEMA the authority to allocate funds to take care of animals in disaster zones. The lessons of Katrina were obvious – pet owners will risk their own lives to remain with their pets. With the passage of PETS, local governments can encourage people to take their pets with them during evacuations, point pet owners toward animal-friendly emergency shelters, provide care for evacuated pets, and include them in rescue operations.

Lessons from Hurricane Katrina Applied During Superstorm Sandy

The lessons learned from Katrina and the PETS legislation cleared the way for New York City to mandate that all city shelters and public transportation allow pets leading up to and during superstorm Sandy.

In hard hit New Jersey, where apparently there was no mandate like the one in NYC, some residents who were forced to evacuate left their pets behind. To reduce the risk to pet owners who might try to return to devastated neighborhoods to retrieve their animals, the state set up a 24-hour hotline for storm evacuees who left their pets behind. Calling the hotline alerts animal rescue workers who dispatch teams to try to find the pets and bring them to safety.

For a list of superstorm Sandy pets-in-need information for both pet owners and those who want to help by donating time, supplies or money, the Huffington Post has links to several resources.

Keeping Your Pet Healthy and Safe During a Natural Disaster

To prepare your own pet to ride out a storm with you at home, have the following supplies set aside and easily accessible:

Your pet's health records Food for about a week (canned, dehydrated or dehydrated raw are best)
Current pictures of your pet Plenty of fresh water and a supply of water purification tablets
Rabies tag and microchip information Portable crate
Medications, nutritional supplements Bedding
Food and water bowls Collar and leash


If you think you may have to evacuate your home, the safest place for your pet is with you, so plan ahead to take him along:

  • Make sure you have a portable crate ready to go.
  • Your pet should have a collar with a current ID tag. If he's microchipped, make sure the database contains your most recent contact information.
  • Pack an extra collar, ID tag and leash, a copy of your pet's health and licensing records, and a few current pictures of your pet in a waterproof bag or other container.
  • Some folks allocate credit set aside for their pets through a funding agency such as Care Credit, in case there is a medical emergency that must be financed.
  • Have your destination planned in advance, whether it's the home of a relative or friend, a shelter that accepts pets, or a pet-friendly hotel or motel.

For more information read How to Prepare for Your Pet's Needs Before a Disaster Strikes.