Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies Evacuees with Pets or Animals

According to Quick Response Research Report 171: Providing for Pets During Disasters: An Exploratory Study, “Studies have found that as many as 20 percent of residents will refuse to evacuate because they will not leave their pets.”

Evacuees with pets or animals that have to be left behind in the rush of an evacuation worry about their pets and/or animals. The Herald Bulletin article “Those Evacuated Return Slowly” described the chemical fire in Anderson, Indiana: “[Scott] Stanley and [Henry] White …weren’t worried about their safety throughout the ordeal, but were concerned about their pets. Stanley has three dogs and two cats; White has three cats. ‘I left them here. I had no choice,’ he said. ‘I love my pets like family, but people come first. There was so much smoke here I was afraid my animals weren’t going to be alive. …I kinda snuck back in early this morning to feed the animals,’ he said, chuckling. ‘I’m definitely ready to come home.’”

The article “Ninth Victim of Chlorine Leak Is Found” described the chlorine gas derailment in Graniteville, South Carolina: “At the corner of Bettis Academy and Ascauga Lake Roads, at a police roadblock, Antwon Miller spent part of Saturday trying to persuade a police officer to allow him and his mother-in-law, Jeanette Hartley, to return to his home in the hot zone to check on the family pets—two dogs and a cat—that were left behind. The police officers at the roadblock told him to call the sheriff's office, where he was directed to the animal control office. ‘It's just me and my mother-in-law, it won’t take but a minute,’ he pleaded into his cell phone. But the official on the other end said it would be at least two hours. So the two tried again with Travis Blackwelder, an Aiken County Deputy Sheriff at the roadblock. The deputy said he could escort into the area only people who had left behind medicines. ‘I forgot my mother’s blood pressure medication and my glucose monitor,’ said Ms. Hartley. So the deputy put her in the passenger seat of his police car and took her inside the zone. She returned later with Hershey on her lap; Rex, for now at least, was still at home.”

As reported in Quick Response Research Report 171: Providing for Pets During Disasters: An Exploratory Study, “Failure to evacuate animals places subsequent risk on people, especially rescue workers. For instance, following a mandatory evacuation because of a hazardous chemical spill in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, in 1996, 40 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats were not evacuated. Most people who did not evacuate their animals reported thinking that they would not be out of their homes for long. However, the 1,700 residents of Weyauwega were kept away from their homes for several days, rather than hours. Shortly after the evacuation, several residents illegally reentered their homes to rescue their pets, at considerable risk to their own safety.” 

In addition, according to the Quick Response Research Report 171: “Four days after the evacuation, the emergency operations center organized an official pet rescue, supervised by the National Guard and using the Guard’s armored vehicles. This response challenged resources that could have been put to other uses and it jeopardized the safety of rescue workers as well. The Weyauwega study concludes that residents who do not evacuate with their pets could adversely affect the health and safety of many other people and animals during disasters.”

According to Reverse Lane Standards and ITS Strategies Southeast United States Hurricane Study: Technical Memorandum Number 1: Final Report, during the evacuation of hurricanes, people traveling with pets increase their time to commute: “The evacuation of pets and animals needs to be considered. There were some problems due to prolonged travel time drivers had to stop to give animals a rest break alongside the Interstate.”

The Reno/Tahoe Blog article “Pleasant Valley Fire” reported: “If people have livestock or pets at their homes that they cannot get to, they are advised to notify Nevada Highway Patrol officers who are enforcing road closures of this. If they are allowed through, they should meet at the intersection of US 395 and Rhodes Road to make arrangements for their animal's care.”

February 7, 2006
Publication #FHWA–HOP-08-015