Pet Shelters during Disasters and Emergencies (part 2)

Benedict “Dinky” de Borja has been a volunteer Firefighter + Medic for the Pateros Filipino-Chinese Volunteer Fire and Rescue Brigade for the last 5 years. He helps Dr. Sixto Carlos on topics such as Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, as well as First Aid.

In this part of our article I will define and describe what a pet shelter is used for and the items that can and should be found in one. First off, the basic definition of a pet shelter is to protect your pet from the elements (heat & cold) or weather (rain), and to provide an area where your pet can play, be fed, and looked after.

To make things simple, I have divided the types of pet shelters into types. Those types are largely determined by the decision of the pet’s owner as to what location shall the pet shelter be located at.

Now having these concepts in mind I would like to introduce you to 2 simple actions to take when an emergency or disaster occurs. These actions are the decisions made by the pet owner on where they will choose to stay during and emergency or disaster and consequently be where the location of the pet shelter would be. The first action is to shelter in place (also known as “bugging in”) the next action is evacuating to a safer location (also known as “bugging out”). These 2 actions will be decided by the pet’s owner or guardian and will be decided depending on the emergency or disaster situation that they find themselves in.

Pet items needed for sheltering in place:

When sheltering in place the pet’s owner or guardian has decided that any danger that THEY are in can be addressed at their home. (NOTE: I have capitalized the word “THEY” to emphasize that your pet will need your help and wisdom to help them through the crisis of an emergency or disaster). In most emergency situations, such as an accident, your pet maybe taken care of by you or taken to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment, and then returned to you to be taken care of at home.

In those kinds of emergency situations the following items are essential to helping pet owners when sheltering in place:


  • Collar or Harness- this can hold an ID tag that can contain your name, contact details and other information that can be used if your pet has an accident.
  • Leash or restraining device- for trained animals this can serve to keep them calm and to help keep them controlled when rescuers or your veterinarians come to your aid.
  • Pet carriers or portable cages- can help keep your pet calm and controlled when being transported to your veterinarian for treatment or when staying at home when recovering. Try to get your pet used to staying in a carrier or cage so that they don’t become anxious or agitated. As much as possible use carriers that can close and lock rather than simple carry-on bags. If your pets have to stay in a carrier or cage for extended periods of time try to put bedding material such as old blankets or towels or a basket that your pet can use to sleep on.
  • Toys- as with human children, toys can be stress reliever for pets especially when hurt or in another type of emergency. Again this helps to calm and control your pet and help the owner or guardian to contact help or prepare the pet for transport to more advanced medical facilities.
  • First Aid Kit- can be used to treat your pet for injuries when it has been in an accident such as cuts or wounds. The first aid given to your pet is also to help stabilize and calm them in preparation for transport to your veterinarian. This where the collar, harness, leash, restraining device and Pet Carrier or portable cages come in. They can help your pet calm and in control until you reach your veterinarian’s clinic or until they can reach your location if they make house calls.
    • Please note that the items in your pet’s first aid kit are only for initial treatment of your pet’s ailments. For long term recovery please consult the findings and recommended medicines from your veterinarian and how to apply them to your pet.
  • Food and Water- As much as these items are further down this list they are very important. I recall pet owners being very upset about a pet’s safety or health condition that they actually forget to feed or water their pets.
    • In fact, sticking to as close as your pet’s regular feeding schedule can help in your pet’s recovery process as well as giving them a touch point in achieving normalcy. If your pet seems to have a persistent lack of appetite this can a sign of appetite fatigue and hits at a change of diet or food type, or an early symptom of more intensive care.
    • In any case, ask your veterinarian for their recommendation on how and what food you can give your pet and other steps the pet owner or guardian should do to help in your pet’s recovery.
  • Grooming and cleaning items- depending on the type or severity of the emergency that your pets were involved in may put them in a situation that they cannot groom or clean themselves on their own. This is where the pet’s owners and guardians come in to make sure that their pet maintains the proper level of hygiene and cleanliness and help bring about a faster time frame to their recovery.

In a disaster scenario, the damage to infrastructure, disruption of services, and access to basic needs such as food and water will be more widespread and unavailable to most people. If the pet’s owner has decided that it is safe enough to stay in place or “bugging in” the list of items above are adjusted to fit that situation:


  • Collar or Harness- the ID tag that can contain your name, contact details and other important information about pet can help rescuers to locate you or help give first aid to your pet if you get separated from your pet like in a flood or earthquake
  • Leash or restraining device- in a disaster scenario your pet can panic and try to run away from your home and become lost or they may become extra aggressive and try to bite or claw rescuers or even the owners themselves. The leash or restraining device can help to control their pets and for some animals this has a calming effect as well.  Pet owners should make sure that the leash or restraining device should be secure but they must also allow their pets to have a small area for movement and also not to make the animal uncomfortable.
  • Pet carriers or portable cages- as with the first 2 items this can help keep your pet calm and controlled when staying at home trying to survive a disaster or recovering after its occurrence and awaiting assistance and rescue.
    • If the pet owner’s only means of restraining their pet is a pet carrier or portable cage then before a disaster happens try to get your pet used to staying in a carrier or cage for prolonged periods of time such as 3 days to a week. This is for the same reason as mentioned before in emergency cases so that they don’t become anxious or agitated as it might take that long for rescuers to get to your location.
    • When rescuers do arrive and evacuation from your home looks to be the most viable option, the pet carrier or portable cage can help control your pet during the evacuation process until you reach the evacuation site.
  • First Aid Kit- If both the pet and their owner were caught in the midst of the disaster as it occurred the likelihood of injury will be high. Learning more advanced techniques of first aid for oneself and your pet, (such as CPR), can help you keep your pet in as stable a condition as possible because it could take some time while waiting for rescuers to arrive.
  • Food and Water- as compared to the previous list, food and water has upgraded in importance and has thus moved up in this list. For food items, make sure that you have good amount on hand, anywhere from a week to several months, as again in a disaster scenario the availability of food sources will be difficult to have access to and rescuers who find you might be able to evacuate or give you first aid rather than have a stash of food with them to share with you and your pet.
    • Also, make sure that the brand and type of food (wet, dry, or leftovers) that you give your pet is something that they are familiar with and are more than happy to eat. Now is not the right time to experiment with a new type or brand that your pet may end up not eating.
    • For water as with food, you can store the same amount of water for your pet as a separate stash or you can share the same water that you yourself drink just add to your own personal stash so as not to run out. You can also use commercially available water treatment chemicals such as bleach, iodine, or water treatment tablets (ex. Aquatabs), or use small home based water filters on remaining water sources as tap water may not be available during and immediately after a disaster.
  • Toys- as with the previous list a pet’s toy helps in keeping your pet calm and relaxed. But in a disaster scenario toys also help to address stress inducing emotions such as boredom, anxiety, or impatience. (Humans might want to take a hint on this from their furry or feathered companions) This also helps kill time while waiting for help to arrive and gives pets something to do when the site they are staying in has limited space to allow for normal exercise.
    • Just make sure you have a variety of items for your pet to play with and keep extras on hand to replace broken or lost items
  • Grooming and cleaning items- as with the same item on the previous list the grooming and cleaning items serve the same purpose with some additional considerations.
    • First off in a disaster scenario wherein the pet owner has decided to stay at their home, space and resources are going to be very limited. Having this in mind, the importance of proper grooming and cleanliness not only for the human occupants of the evacuation site important, it must also apply to their pets as well.
    • For grooming and cleaning items such as brushes (for the pet and the pet’s carrier, cage, and immediate surroundings), soaps and shampoos, and other pet accessories it is recommended that these items be replaced as soon as they are broken or worn out. Better yet if the owner can stock up on replacements for these items as travel and availability of these items may not be possible during and immediately after a disaster.
    • I would also suggest that a supply of clean water be stored separately from you and your family’s (which includes your pet) drinking water supply. This supply can be used for cleaning yourselves and your pet(s) as well as other activities that doesn’t need drinking grade water such as washing dishes, watering the plants, and other related activities. You can store this water supply in larger containers such as drums, underground or overhead tanks, or rainwater collection points. You can also have your home recycle used water for reuse (also known as a gray-water system).


As described and classified in this article, I have given a simple definition of what the purpose of a pet shelter is, one of two types of pet shelters according to the decision made by the pet’s owner that would lead to the location of the pet shelter and a basic list of items to be found at a pet shelter per type of location and situation.

Although there will variations on the definition, types, and item list that be found online and in different references and sources, I suggest you start with the simplest concept of what you’re trying to achieve followed by most basic list of necessary items. From there, each individual person can identify items to add or subtract from the list the different items, brands, types or even locations that would fit their needs the most and even options on the shelter set-ups themselves.

Also, the reader may notice that some of the items and concepts written here tend to look towards dogs and cats as the only pets one can have. The reason for this is because these are the preferred choice of most pet owners in this country. However, many of the same concepts and items here can still apply to other kinds of pets such as small mammals (Ex. gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs) and birds.

In the next newsletter I shall continue to discuss the next type of Pet Shelter and that is when the pet’s owner has decided to leave his current home or location and go to a prepared or improvised evacuation site.

I hope this was helpful for you. Should you have any questions or concerns I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks and Stay Safe.



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