this dog is a lost pet in fire and flood

Found or Lost a Pet in a Fire or Flood? Here’s What to Do


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Sadly, it isn’t only humans who are badly affected by natural disaster like floods and fires. Animals, both domesticated and wild, often bear the brunt of nature as well. When disaster strikes, we all want to do everything we can to help. Animal shelters often get an influx of queries about what to do if you find a lost pet in a fire or flood.

Finding a distressed and/or displaced animal is something that we hope not to experience. The same goes for losing your pet in a serious weather event (or any event!). That said, we do want to be prepared for it should the day come.

We spoke to Carolyn Press-McKenzie, founder of HUHA, to get some insights into helping a someone’s pet you find in this situation. Then we added our own tips on how to find your own if it’s gone missing.

Steps to take if you find a lost pet in a fire or flood

If you come across an animal who seems to be a pet, take action. But what steps do you take?

1. Ensure your own safety

First, make sure you’re safe. Has the fire well and truly passed? Is the flood long gone or have water levels reduced so much they pose no threat to your life? Check the weather and with the relevant rescue organisations to ensure you’re not going in blind.

this cat was a lost pet in fire

2. Secure them and transport

Once you know you’re not at risk, secure the pet and transport them safely. This can be tricky as animals who are hurt or lost might be stressed or in pain. This can make them aggressive or flighty, so be sure to be calm and careful.

Check out our tips on what to do if you find an injured animal for more details on how to safely transport them.

3. Take to vet or shelter

Once you’ve got the animal safe and secured, take it to a vet or shelter. They’ll be able to provide essential care to the animal and help get it back to the owners. Even if the animal is in good health and doesn’t seem hurt, a shelter or vet is still your first stop. They’ll know what to do, even in the midst of a crisis!

If it’s a natural disaster or other emergency affecting a relatively large area, there may be temporary shelters erected locally to assist with the influx of lost animals. If you do want to help out further, volunteer your services and time directly with the shelter.

4. Spread the news on socials

Carolyn recommends always taking photos of the lost pet too. Once you have those, post the details and pictures to missing/lost pet websites, Facebook groups, and other community channels. Be sure to include where you found the pet, as well as where you have dropped it off.

Social networking is huge nowadays, and sharing the pet’s details and location might just help it get back home!

this dog was also a lost pet in fire

How pet parents can help their own pets

If natural disaster strikes, you want to maximise your chances of being able to find your own pet again. Here’s what you should do.

1. Follow our guide to finding a lost pet

Find a ton of tips in our guide on ‘How to Find Lost Pets‘ and read about emergency preparedness and response for pets. The time to act is now – the longer you leave a lost pet, the less likely you are to find it and return it to your loving home.

2. Have pet proof handy

Carolyn also says that it’s important while emotions are running high to ‘’be sure who your pet is and have proof.”

More often than you might think, distressed owners turn up to shelters and are convinced that the black cat or little brown dog is theirs. Later, their pet comes home or is returned. If you have photos or know they have a unique marking, that will make a big difference.

Hopefully you’ve already read our tips on taking pet pictures and have plenty saved in your phone, computer or cloud account.

cat microchips help locate pet owners if a is found after fire or flood

3. Microchip your pet (beforehand)

Carolyn says that pet parents should know “microchipping is key. Individual pet owners have to be prepared to relieve the pressure on rescue organisations by microchipping.”

She continues this thought, by saying that the first thing vets and shelters will do is scan for a chip. Having one with up to date information is the easiest way to be reunited with your pet. Microchip your furkid at the vet then register them with the NZ Companion Animal Register.

“In one fire in 2019,” Carolyn says, “over 950 animals were brought into the shelter. Animals with known owners could be put into kennels to be kept safe. Unknown pets had to remain at the shelter while we tried to find the owners.”

PD did an interview in 2023 about keeping dogs and cats from wandering with Dr Imogen Bassett, Principal Advisor for Biosecurity at Auckland Council, who told us after the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, “85% of microchipped pets were reunited with their owners, compared with only 15% of non-chipped pets.”

Enough said?

4. Register your pet (also beforehand)

As our article ‘Why You Should Register Your Dog and Cat‘ states, registering your dog is a legal requirement. It’s important to follow the legislation because registration (with the Companion Animal Register) is a simple way for your council to identify the owners of any given dog.

Registering your cat with the same authority isn’t something required by law, but why wouldn’t you take a few minutes to do so? If logging your pet’s details will help you be found when your pet is lost in a fire or flood, is there really a decision to make?

Also read about what to do if you think your pet’s been stolen in our article ‘someone stole my dog‘.

mum and daughter take emergency preparedness and response steps for dog during the onset of Auckland flooding

Pet insurance can be a big help in your pet’s life

Have you thought about all the different accidents and illnesses that pets can experience over the year? It’s why you should seriously consider pet insurance to cover the cost of medical care. Click below to get a PD Insurance plan quote today.

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