Protecting Pets and Horses in an Emergency

Pet and Animal Welfare in an Emergency



"Some people are more concerned for their animals in disasters than they are for themselves. This may impair their ability to make sensible decisions about their own safety and that of rescue workers"

(Ref  http://www.rmmagazine.com/2015/05/01/emergency-planning-for-animals/ (external website))

If you own an animal you are responsible for its welfare whether you own a small holding or you have a dog or cat as a member of your family.

Specific guidance has been created below under the follow categories:

  • Cats, Dogs and other domestic small pets.
  • Exotic Pets
  • Horses and Smallholder Livestock

Guidance relating to farm livestock can be found on DEFRA's Webpages (external website).

Animal Welfare Act The 2006 

Animal Welfare Act applies to pet owners and those responsible for domestic animals, e.g. breeders, those who have working animals or farm animals in England and Wales. 

What does this mean for those responsible for animals? 

In short it means they must take positive steps to ensure they care for their animals properly and in particular must provide for the five welfare needs, which are: 

  1. need for a suitable environment 
  2. need for a suitable diet 
  3. need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns 
  4. need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals 
  5. need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

For pet care advice please see the RSPCA Website (external website)

Below is a video made by Northamptonshire County Council and RSCPA with useful advice on looking after your animals in an emergencies.

Caring for Cats, Dogs and other domestic small pets in an Emergency


Your animals are your responsibility. You need to include them in your emergency planning and preparation. 

Failing to plan for them in case a disaster happens (such as a flood) has the potential to put lives at risk. 

Buddy System

Develop a buddy system with a friend or relative so someone is available to care for your pet if you are unable to do so yourself. Keep your buddy's contact details on your fridge, so if you are not at home or unable to tell anyone the emergency services know who your pet can go to stay with.

For more information and advice see our lealet on Preparing an Emergency Plan for your Dometic Pet (464kb, PDF)

Small pets which are not dangerous or exotic, such as cats, dogs and rabbits, are accepted in Reception Centres. 

If you are told to evacuate, follow the instructions given for what you should do with your pet. 

At Home:

Either leave the area and stay with friends or relatives or go to the Local Authority Reception Centre as directed and register your pet as well as your family, remember to take your pet emergency survival kit with you. Depending on the situation and the location of the Reception Centre it may be possible for them to stay with you at the Centre until it is safe to return home or alternative emergency accommodation has been arranged whilst the situation is ongoing. 

If you can't take your pet: If you are at home and you are told to evacuate but you have to leave your pet behind, for whatever reason, put your pet in an upstairs room with plenty of water and sanitation. Go to the Local Authority Reception Centre as directed and report that your pet has been left at home. 

Away from Home (for example at work):

Not at home If you are not at home at the time of the emergency and you are not able to immediately go back, go to the Local Authority Reception Centre as directed and report that your pet has been left at home.


There are a number of incidents where the advice is to shelter at home with your windows and doors closed.

At Home:

Please ensure that you have a pet emergency survival kit for your pet so they have sufficient food, water and sanitation in the event of being unable to leave home for up to 3 days.

Away from Home (for example at work):

Not at home If you are not at home at the time of the emergency and you are not able to immediately go back, go to the Local Authority Reception Centre as directed and report that your pet has been left at home.


Put together a Pet Emergency Survival Kit with essential items if you have to leave home at short notice or have to shelter in your home:


  • Water
  • Food
  • Bowls
  • Lead / muzzle / harness / collar
  • Spare ID Tag
  • Medication
  • Health records, microchips numbers
  • Insurance details
  • Blanket or toy (familiar items help to relieve stress)
  • Animal bed
  • Pet carrier / cage
  • Photo of your pet in case it gets lost
  • Cat litter, pooh bags and other hygiene items.

Exotic Pets

Exotic pet species, like reptiles and other wild animals in captivity, have the same needs as they would in the wild. 

Their environmental, dietary and behavioural needs can be challenging. Commonly-kept reptiles include bearded dragons, corn snakes, royal pythons and leopard geckos. For more information on caring for your exotic pet please see the RSPCA Website (external website). 

Buddy System Develop a buddy system with a friend or relative so someone is available to care for your exotic pet if you are unable to do so yourself. Keep your buddy's contact details on your fridge, so if you are not at home or unable to tell anyone the emergency services know who your pet can go to stay with.

For more information and advice see our lealet on Preparing an Emergency Plan for your Exotic Pet (464kb, PDF)

If you own an exotic or wild animal do not take it to the Reception Centre.


Buddy System
Develop a buddy system with a friend or relative so someone is available to care for your exotic pet if you are unable to do so yourself. Keep your buddy's contact details on your fridge, so if you are not at home or unable to tell anyone the emergency services know who your pet can go to stay with.


If asked to evacuate your home put your buddy system into practice so your pet is taken care of until you can return home or alternative arrangements can be made.

There are a number of incidents where the advice is to shelter at home with your windows and doors closed.

At Home:

Please ensure that you have a pet emergency survival kit for your pet so they have sufficient food, water and sanitation in the event of being unable to leave home for up to 3 days.

Away from Home (for example at work):

Not at home If you are not at home at the time of the emergency and you are not able to immediately go back, go to the Local Authority Reception Centre as directed and report that your pet has been left at home.


Put together a Pet Emergency Survival Kit with essential items if you have to leave home at short notice or have to shelter in your home:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Bowls
  • Medication
  • Health records, microchips numbers
  • Insurance details
  • Animal house
  • Source of power (if heat or light is essential for welfare)
  • Pet carrier / cage
  • Photo of your pet in case it gets lost
  • Hygiene items.

Horses and Small Holder Livestock


Your animals are your responsibility. You need to include them in your emergency planning and preparation. 

Failing to plan for them in case a disaster happens (such as a flood) has the potential to put lives at risk. 

Horses and small holder livestock, such as chickens, are often more difficult to relocate and can live a distance from home. The advice given below is based on horses and livestock being at you home, however it can easily be applied to other arrangements such as having your horse at livery. 

Develop a buddy system with a friend or relative so someone is available to care for your animals if you are unable to do so yourself. Keep your buddy's contact details on your fridge, so if you are not at home or unable to tell anyone the emergency services know who is going to care for your animals.

For more information and advice see our lealet on Preparing an Emergency Plan for your Equine and Smallholder Livestock (463kb, PDF)

If you own a horse or livestock animals please do not take them to the Reception Centre. 

What you do depends on how safe the location (field or building) that the animals are in is going to be safe?

Location Remains Safe 

Buddy System Develop a buddy system with a friend or relative so someone is available to care for your animals if you are unable to do so yourself. Keep your buddy's contact details on your fridge, so if you are not at home or unable to tell anyone the emergency services know who your pet can go to stay with. If asked to evacuate your home put your buddy system into practice so your animals are taken care of until you can return home or alternative arrangements can be made.

Location Requires Evacuation

If you need to evacuate, you may also need to move your horse or other livestock to a safe place. You can improve their chance of survival by having a safer area to move them to in an emergency event.

Safe Paddock: Plan a suitable location with a family member, friend or owner (who doesn't live with you) to care for your livestock or horses if you can't.


There are a number of incidents where the advice is to shelter at home with your windows and doors closed. it is important to follow advice issued regarding going outdoors to care for animals and livestock so you may want to bring them inside buildings or houses to make their care easier. 

At Home:

Please ensure that you have a pet emergency survival kit for your horse/livestock so they have sufficient food, water and sanitation in the event of being unable to leave home for up to 3 days.

Away from Home (for example at work):

Not at home If you are not at home at the time of the emergency and you are not able to immediately go back, contact your Buddy. 

Put together a Pet Emergency Survival Kit with essential items if you have to leave home at short notice or have to shelter in your home:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Buckets/bowls
  • Leadrope /headcollar/halter
  • ID Tag (for container or headcollar/halter)
  • Medication
  • Health records, microchips numbers, copy of passport (equine)
  • Insurance details
  • First Aid Kit
  • Animal bedding
  • Carrier / cage
  • Photo of your horse/livestock.
  • Hygiene items.