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5 Questions Pet Sitters Must Answer When Disaster Strikes


Disaster Kit


With images of the ongoing Colorado wildfire destruction and the northern Florida flooding left in the wake of tropical cyclone Debby fresh on our minds, professional pet sitters—regardless of location—must ask “How would I respond in the event of a disaster?”


When your clients take a vacation, are the homes and pets left behind in your care at risk for hurricane damage? How about earthquakes? Tornadoes? Wildfires? Better yet, are you prepared if such a disaster should occur?


Having a disaster plan in place is vital—both personally and professionally. As a professional pet sitter, you’ll not only be responsible for your family and pets, but also for clients’ pets in your care during a disaster.


Make sure your pet-sitting service has a disaster plan in place that answers these five questions should disaster strike:


  1. How will I travel to my clients’ pets, particularly if roads are blocked or neighborhoods are evacuated?
  2. How will I feed the pets if clients are unable to return and stores are closed down?
  3. How will I provide safe shelter and care for my clients’ pets in the event they need to be evacuated?
  4. How will I let my clients know what's become of their pets?
  5. How will I get medical treatment for injured pets?


Create your disaster plan. Answering these questions will form the basis for your pet-sitting services' disaster plan. Keep in mind, preparing for disaster is not something you can do alone. By preparing in advance, you can take advantage of your community's local disaster resources and make sure you have important information onhand, such as the contact information for local emergency shelters that allow pets. Also make sure you have necessary information on file for all of your clients, including emergency contact information, an emergency guardianship form and a veterinarian authorization form. 


Put your disaster plan in writing. Have a printed copy of any electronic plan you may have saved on your computer, so that you are still able to access it should you be without power.


Share your disaster plan with staff sitters and clients. It is important that your staff sitters are familiar with your company's disaster plan so that they can respond accordingly in the event of a disaster. Your clients will know the steps to take to reach you and check on their pets in the event of a disaster. This gives your clients extra peace of mind knowing that as a true professional you have a plan in place should a natural or man-made disaster occur. 


To help prepare your disaster plan, take advantage of these important resources from Pet Sitters International:


“When Pet Sitting Becomes Pet Saving” (article)

“What are the chances? Natural Disaster in the U.S.” (article)

“Disaster Preparedness Tips for Pet Owners” (blog post)

Emergency Disaster Kit Checklist for Clients (PSI Members Only, log-in/password required)

Law Enforcement Notification Card  (PSI Members Only, log-in/password required)

Emergency Pet Guardianship Form (PSI Members Only, log-in/password required) 

Disaster Preparedness for Pet Sitters webinar (  PSI Members Only, log-in/password required)       


Pet sitters, do you have a disaster plan in place for your pet-sitting service? Does it answer all five questions listed above? Have you ever had to respond to a disaster situation while pet sitting?


Share your comments below. 


After the last major fire here in 2008 I created Animal Care forms to be on site in case the owner is not home during an emergency. We had situations where behind evacuation lines animals were safe but left w/out directions for their proper feeding. Simple directions can make the difference between a well meaning neighbor or fireman feeding the wrong type of hay or feed to animals with disastrous results. These forms have all contact info and emergency evac info and are ideal as a guide for an animal or housesitter to follow. I charge $8.00 for each packet including shipping. Most people put off disaster planning in the hopes it will never be needed...and some of us have it occur more than once. All we can do is be as prepared as possible, which is never enough and hope and pray for a good outcome!
Posted @ Saturday, May 18, 2013 11:34 PM by Susie Heffernan, Crain Ridge
Great idea, Susie! Thanks for your comment. 
-Beth, Pet Sitters International
Posted @ Monday, May 20, 2013 7:23 AM by Beth Stultz
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