Be prepared for a disaster

Disasters can strike quickly and without warning. Having the right information is key to understanding hazards and managing risks for you and your pets.

Disasters can strike quickly and without warning. Having the right information is key to understanding hazards and managing risks for you and your pets.

Our FREE downloadable Disaster Packs include a complete checklist of emergency survival items and important information to prepare a disaster plan for your pet.  

Certain disasters also bring with them specific hazards, so to ensure the safety of your family and your family pet, having the right information will help you react in the right way.

Here are some specific hazards created by specific disasters:

All Disasters

Always watch your pets closely. Keep all your pets under your direct control. Pets may become disorientated, particularly if the disaster has affected scent markers that normally allow them to find their homes.

Your pets may try to escape from your property. Be aware of hazards at nose, paw or hoof level; particularly debris, spilled chemicals, fertilizers and other substances that might not seem dangerous to humans.

The behaviour of animals may change dramatically. They may become aggressive or defensive, so be aware of their well-being and protect them, in order to ensure the safety of them and other people.

Storms, Floods and Landslides

  • These events may isolate households and make it necessary for each household to take care of its own needs until assistance is available. Your household should be self-sufficient for at least three days or longer if likely to be cut off from utilities and from outside supplies for food and water. Being prepared for two weeks is safer
  • Find out from your local council if your property is at risk from flooding or if there have been landslides in your area before and where they might occur again. Know where the closest highest ground is, and how to move your family and animals there. Move all pets inside or to a safe place. If you have to evacuate, take your pets with you
  • If animals come into contact with flood water or mud from landslides ensure they are decontaminated (cleaned) immediately. 

Intense Heat

To prevent heatstroke in animals:

  • Ensure they have enough space and shade (this includes trees for horses)
  • Increase air flow especially if the animal is inside
  • Avoid moving or exercising animals in peak day time temperatures
  • Ensure they are still fed twice a day (morning and early evening)
  • Ensure animals have enough water. Water intake is double in high temperatures and humidity
  • Provide wet-down facilities. Use a sprinkler or sprayer.

If an animal is suffering from heatstroke:

  • Cool your animal down slowly using a hose, sprinkler or fan. Do not use ice cold water.


To prevent hypothermia in animals:

  • Keep them dry and warm in shelter
  • Use lots of thin layers, rather than one heavy layer to cover the animal
  • Have a good water supply available. Most animal deaths in snowstorms are from dehydration
  • Exercise them to keep blood circulating. 


Thunderstorms are short-lived but dangerous. Each thunderstorm also brings lightning strikes. Therefore:

  • Always bring your pet inside and maintain direct control of them. Many animals are unsettled by thunderstorms and it is more comforting and safe for them to be with you
  • Do not allow horses to gather under an isolated tree or anything that otherwise presents a risk from a lightning strike. 


New Zealand’s entire coastline is at risk of a tsunami. When a tsunami strikes it can happen with no warning. If you live in a coastal area, ask your local council about your tsunami risk and local warning arrangements:

  • Get to higher ground and inland as far as possible (and take your animals with you, if you can do so safely). Leaving pets behind in an attic level space or any building, is strongly discouraged even when left with food and water. Remember if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your animal
  • Stay away from coastal water, tidal estuaries, river and streams for at least 24hrs
  • Pets may become disorientated because flooding affects scent markers that normally allow them to find their homes
  • Be aware of hazards at nose, paw and hoof level. This includes infected, stagnant water


Volcanoes produce a wide variety of hazards that can kill and injure. The after effects of volcanoes such as ashfall can linger for a long time, putting you and your animal at risk:

  • Bring all animals inside (and into closed shelters) to protect them from breathing or ingesting volcanic ash
  • Cover feed to avoid consumption of ash
  • Wash animals paws and fur or skin to prevent ingesting or inhaling ash while grooming themselves
  • Always provide clean drinking water
  • Keep pets indoors as much as possible. If they need to go out, always brush their paws and fur or skin before letting them indoors. 


Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths result from falling debris, flying glass and collapsing structures such as buildings and bridges. Therefore:

  • If you are inside a building, move no more than a few steps, drop, cover and hold. If you are outside, move no more than a few steps away from buildings, trees, streetlights and powerlines, then drop, cover and hold
  • After an earthquake keep your animals under your direct control as they can become disorientated. Take measures to protect your animals from hazards and to protect other people from your animals.
  • If your animal comes into contact with liquefaction, it may need to be decontaminated (cleaned) immediately



Pets are your responsibility in a Disaster

New Zealand’s animal welfare legislation Animal Welfare Act 1999: requires owners of animals, and persons in charge of animals, to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the physical, health, and behavioural needs of the animals are met.

These physical, health and behavioural needs are defined in the Act as the Five Freedoms.

The Five Freedoms:

  1. Proper and sufficient food and water
  2. Adequate shelter
  3. Opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
  4. Physical handling in a manner which minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or  unnecessary pain or distress
  5. Protection from and rapid diagnosis of significant injury or illness.

In a disaster these Five Freedoms must still be met. This means the Animal Welfare Act therefore remains in force and you are legally responsible for your pets in a disaster.

Local authorities (through their responsibility for human welfare) should ensure that pets are considered during an evacuation. And also provide temporary shelter for those animals whose owners are just unable to care for them.

But in a disaster, resources are inevitably stretched. Abandoning your pet or handing your responsibility for them over to overburdened local authorities, could limit your chance to be reunited, which means you could lose each other forever.

Protect your pet in a disaster

Do you have a plan to protect your pet when disaster strikes?

Disasters can happen without warning in New Zealand. The Christchurch Earthquake (Feb 2011) proves they can also be deadly.

These disasters can strike at any time and without a plan you could make panicked decisions that could put your pet, yourself and family at risk.

Prepare a disaster plan for your pet or be prepared to potentially lose each other forever

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