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Center for Public Health Preparedness

Emergency Animal Sheltering

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Pets are often perceived as family members. During an emergency situation, many people refuse to evacuate their homes if it means leaving their pets behind. This not only puts their own lives at risk, but also the lives of emergency responders involved in rescue efforts.

Animal welfare during a disaster came to the forefront of America’s consciousness during Hurricane Katrina. This and other disasters helped drive the development of new legislation concerning pets. The Federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Act of 2006 (P.E.T.S Act) requires state and local emergency preparedness operational plans to address the needs of individuals with pets or service animals during each phase of the emergency management cycle. Services to be provided include rescue, care, sheltering, and essential assistance to those with animal companions.  

This course is the second in a series of introductory courses designed for those interested in assisting animals during emergencies. The main purpose of this course is to educate course participants on the purpose and types of emergency animal shelters, as well as the management and administration of such shelters.


This course is geared toward anyone who may provide services (clinical, managerial, administrative) or other assistance to an animal sheltering operation, including veterinarians, public health professionals, SPCA/Humane Society staff, emergency management officials and any other individuals concerned with animal safety and welfare.


After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the purpose and need for emergency animal sheltering
  • Identify the types of emergency animal shelters and determine which type is suitable for a given disaster situation
  • Recognize the human and physical resources needed to set up and operate an emergency animal shelter
  • Describe the Incident Command System (ICS) and the purpose of using ICS within the shelter organizational structure
  • List potential roles to manage an emergency animal shelter effectively
  • Highlight considerations for some shelter procedures and protocols
  • List useful resources for continued planning and training


Originally launched May 2009

Technical Requirements

This course is built to XHTML 1.1 specifications. A modern web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox is required to view the pages.


Estimated time for this course is 1 ½ to 2 hours


Free and open to the public


We would like to recognize Empire State Animal Response Team for their assistance in developing this course.

Special thanks to the Austin Humane Society , Dallas Animal Services and PetSmart Charities (http://www.petsmartcharities.org/) for contributing information about the essential animal emergency services they provide.


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