Animals in Emergencies

If nothing else, recent natural disasters both here in New Zealand and around the world have shown we all need a plan for an emergency or disaster situation.

The same applies to our pets, and we need to have a plan for them. Every home is vulnerable in an emergency, and in homes containing pets, advance preparation for them is as important as it is for other members of your family.

There are three essential steps that you should take in preparation for any emergency:

  • Create an emergency plan
  • Prepare a get-away kit with provision for your pets
  • Prepare a full survival kit, including provisions for your pets


If you have an emergency plan, the chances are you won’t be in the situation many have found themselves in natural disasters worldwide. You would have evacuated early and have been prepared for dealing with your animals.

We want you to take your pet with you should you have to leave your home or the area. Your pet cannot survive without you and you may not be able to return to your property for several days. Remember if it is unsafe for you to remain, it is unsafe for your pet.

Discuss your emergency plan with your family or household so everyone knows what to do. Practice your plan and make sure a copy of it is readily available, for example on the fridge.

You can find out more about preparing for an emergency on the Get Ready Get Thru website.


A get-away kit is a 'grab-and-run' kit, full of items that will allow you to look after your pets in the heat of the moment immediately after a disaster. Ideally you should store this by your back door, or in an easily accessible place.

Your get-away kit should include:

  • Carry boxes/cages for transporting your pets that need it
  • Lead or rope
  • Vaccination, veterinary records, registration records, microchip details and photographs of your animals (ideally have this information saved online as well)
  • A blanket/bedding
  • Bottled water
  • A bowl
  • Some food and treats
  • Plastic bags/doggie bags/gloves
  • Collar and large name tag, to include the animals name, address and telephone number
  • Any medicines your animal needs
  • A first aid kit for animals and a basic animal aid first aid book
  • A list of pet friendly safe houses (friends/family) or safe shelters (pet friendly shelters such as kennels, catteries, pet friendly hotels)

It is essential that your animal is microchipped beforehand – as your animal will be easier to locate if you become separated. The 2011 Christchurch earthquakes had a very successful relocation rate for animals that were microchipped.


Should you have to leave or are in a situation where water, power and food supplies are limited or unavailable, you need to be prepared. This is where a survival kit comes in handy.

You may not be in a position to get it during the initial emergency but you may be able to secure it afterwards, and it may be the crucial difference in the survival of your pet.

  • A pet carrier or crate for each animal with your name and mobile number on it
  • Pet collar, lead and/or harness for each dog
  • Muzzle for each dog, even if they are friendly (emergency workers may need to handle your animal)
  • Extra rope
  • Extra towels or blankets – used blankets are great as they provide a familiar smell to reassure your pets
  • Another set of pet identification documents – a collar and tag with your contact number, if your pet is not microchippe
  • Vaccination, veterinary records, registration records, microchip details and photographs of your animals (ideally have this information saved online as well)
  • Enough food and water for seven days
  • Enough medication (if needed) for seven days
  • Extra bowls for food and water
  • Familiar toys (as they can help reassure your pet)
  • A tin opener
  • Photos of your pet
  • Emergency contact list for your local authorities, vet and animal rescue centre
  • Litter tray and litter (for cats)
  • Plastic bags/doggie bags/gloves
  • Newspaper
  • Cleaning solution
  • Container to carry everything
  • A first aid kit for animals and a basic animal aid first aid book.

Make sure you and your family are safe, but always remember your pets are also your responsibility - they deserve your attention too.


The Ministry for Primary Industries website has useful information on preparedness during an emergency including helpful downloadable checklists -

The Get Ready Get Thru website provides information on preparedness, what to do in an emergency and information on different types of disasters. It also provides helpful downloadable resources -

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management website provides information and resources including links to your local civil defence group -




SPCA's National Rescue Unit (NRU) based in Wellington is comprised of a group of internationally qualified emergency response volunteers who provide a technical rescue service for trapped animals, as well as responding to disasters that may strike. 

Wellington SPCA founded the NRU in 1995 and is the only SPCA in New Zealand to have such a specialist rescue capability, epitomised by the rescue of over 70 animals from the red zone immediately following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and over 900 animals during the 2017 Edgecumbe flooding .

Find out more about our National Rescue Unit



Our Emergency Reserve is made up of volunteers who respond to animal emergencies after hours. They also respond to disasters and other major incidents involving animals.

Wellington SPCA has put this team in place to ensure it has people with the right skills to look after animals in emergency or disaster situations. 

Find out more about our Emergency Reserve Team


Animal care

Learn about caring for your pet as well as legal minimum standards for care.  

Pet insurance

Find out how Southern Cross can help provide protection for your beloved family pet.