Pets & Service Animals

A smiling couple sitting on the couch with their dog.

For many, pets are more than just animals — they are a part of the family. As members of your family, they should be included in your emergency planning process. Make sure your disaster plan addresses what you will do when an emergency requires you to leave your home, leave your pet at home, or prevents you from returning home. A few simple steps to ensure your pet's safety can go a long way when disaster strikes.

Ready New York: My Pet's Emergency Plan

Ready New York: My Pet's Emergency Plan is a workbook that outlines steps pet owners can take to ensure their pets are prepared for all types of emergencies.

Make a Plan

  • Record important information about your pet so that you can easily access it during an emergency.
  • Before an emergency, make a list of emergency contacts. Keep a copy of this list in your pet's Go Bag.

Proper Identification

  • Dogs and cats should wear a collar or harness, rabies tag, and identification tag at all times. Identification tags should include your name, address, and phone number, and the phone number of an emergency contact. Dogs should also wear a license. Get information on dog licensing from the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.
  • Talk to your veterinarian, contact 311 online, or visit about microchipping your pet or service animal. A properly registered microchip enables positive identification of your pet or service animal if you and your pet/service animal are separated.
  • Keep a current color photo of your pet or service animal (in the event it becomes lost).

Evacuating With Your Pet or Service Animal

Think about where you will go with your pet and how you will get there if you have to leave home during an emergency.

  • Arrange for family or friends outside of the affected area to shelter your pet.
  • Identify animal-friendly hotels outside of the affected area.
  • Talk with your local veterinarian, kennel, or grooming facility to see if they can offer safe shelter for your pet during an emergency. Create a Go Bag for your pet or service animal (See Pet Go Bag Checklist).
  • Practice evacuation plans to familiarize your pet with the process and increase its comfort level.
  • Know your pet's hiding places so you can easily find it during an emergency. Keep in mind a stressed pet may behave differently than normal and its stress level may increase. Use a muzzle to prevent bites. Also be advised that scared pets may try to flee.

Pets/Service Animals and Public Transportation

Pets in carriers are allowed on MTA subways, buses, and trains.

When an evacuation order is declared, pets too large for carriers will also be allowed, provided those animals are muzzled and controlled on a sturdy leash no longer than four feet. The City will announce when this policy is in effect. 

According to the MTA, customers with disabilities are permitted to bring their service animals into all MTA transit facilities. Learn more

Pets/Service Animals and Emergency Sheltering

In the event that the City’s emergency shelter system is open, and you cannot shelter your pet at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area, pets are allowed at all City evacuation centers. Please bring supplies to care for your pet, including food, leashes, a carrier, and medication. Bring supplies to clean up after your animal. Only legal pets will be allowed. Service animals are always allowed.

If You Are Unable to Get Home to Your Pet or Service Animal

Some emergencies may prevent you from returning home. In planning for such emergencies:

  • Identify a trusted friend, neighbor, or dog-walker to care for your pet in your absence. This person should have a set of your house keys, be familiar with your home and pet, know your emergency plan, and have your contact information.
  • Put stickers on the main entrances to your home to alert rescue workers of the number and types of pets or service animals inside. Update the information on the stickers every six months. Free Rescue Alert stickers can be ordered from the ASPCA.
  • Keep a collar/harness, leash, and your pet's/service animal's Go Bag in a place where it can be easily found.

Prepare Your Pet or Service Animal for Weather Emergencies

Do not forget the needs of pets and service animals when severe weather strikes.

During extreme heat:

  • Never leave pets in the car. Temperatures rise quickly even with the windows down and can be deadly for your pet. Call 911 if you see a pet or child in a hot car.
  • Be sure your pets have access to plenty of water, especially when it's hot.
  • Make sure your pet has plenty of shady places to go when outdoors.
  • Avoid exercising with your pet outside on extremely hot days.
  • Be sure your pet or service animal has plenty of food and water.

During winter or extreme cold:

  • Bring pets/service animals inside during cold weather.
  • Wipe your dog's paws: ice-melting chemicals can make your pet sick.
  • Be sure your pet or service animal has plenty of food and water.

    Prepare Your Pet or Service Animal for Health Emergencies

    • Identify a family member, friend or neighbor who can care for your pet or service animal if someone in the household becomes ill.
    • Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for quick movement of pets.
    • Avoid crowded dog parks, veterinary offices and trails, and be sure to bathe your pet after exposure to those environments.
    • Wash pet bedding, leashes, collars, dishes and toys the same way you would clean other surfaces in your home.
    • If you have neighbors who are self-quarantined or otherwise in need of help, offer to walk their dog or take pets for routine visits.
    • Similar to the precautions recommended to prevent human transmission, the World Organization of Animal Health currently recommends regular hand washing with soap and potable water before and after touching animals, their food, or their supplies.

    Gather Supplies

    Pets should have their own Go Bag — a sturdy, easy-to-carry container, such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels — that should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry, and include the following items:

    • A current color photograph of you and your pet together (in case you are separated)
    • Copies of medical records that indicate dates of vaccinations and a list of medications your pet takes and why
    • Proof of identification and ownership, including copies of registration information, adoption papers, proof of purchase, and microchip information
    • Physical description of your pet, including species, breed, age, sex, color, distinguishing traits, and any other vital information about characteristics and behavior
    • Animal first-aid kit, including flea and tick treatment, and other items recommended by your veterinarian
    • Food, water, and dishes for at least three days
    • Collapsible cage or carrier
    • Muzzle* and leash
    • Cotton sheet to place over the carrier to help keep your pet calm
    • Comforting toys or treats
    • Litter, litter pan, and scoop
    • Plastic bags for cleanup

    Include pet supplies in your own emergency supply kit — the set of supplies you need to survive in your home for up to seven days.

    • Pet food. If you use wet food, make sure you have pop-up cans or a manual can opener on hand. Rotate food and water items every six months to avoid expiration. 
    • Water. Dehydration is a serious health risk to animals. Check with your veterinarian to see how much water your pet needs on a daily basis. 
    • Plastic bags, newspapers, containers, and cleaning supplies

    After An Emergency

    • After an emergency, be extra careful when letting your pet or service animal loose outdoors and be sure your pet wears an identification tag.
    • Familiar scents and landmarks may have been altered, which may cause your pet/service animal to become confused or lost.
    • If your pet is lost, visit Animal Care & Control of New York City.

    More Resources