Here’s what will be done for your pets in an emergency

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Being forced out of your home during an ongoing emergency is stressful enough, but if you have a pet in the house it will only add to the worry.

Greater Manchester was recently honored for its pet evacuation plan by the RSPCA. The combined authority has developed a strategy on what happens to cats, dogs, hamsters, ponies, guinea pigs, spiders, snakes and other animals in an emergency.

The Greater Manchester Authorities Civil Contingency and Resilience Unit (CCRU) drew up the plan after a large gas explosion in Shaw, Oldham in 2012. It tragically killed toddler Jamie Heaton and forced the evacuation of nearly 250 houses.

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As the explosion took place during the day, many people were at work, preventing them from returning home to take care of their pets. A large crowd of worried residents gathered at the police cordon in an attempt to reach their cherished animals.



Flyers and posters used to deal with pets during an emergency.

Oldham Council started a detailed spreadsheet which was used to save the animals and reunite them with their owners. All animals, from dogs to ferrets, have been rescued and reunited with their owners.

After that, a companion animal escape plan was developed which covers pets like dogs, cats, rabbits and birds, service dogs, exotic animals like spiders as well as equines such as donkeys and horses.



People evacuated from their homes after huge fire broke out at Wing Fat supermarket

It kicks in if houses need to be evacuated for security reasons, as well as as a result of war, terrorism or any other incident threatening the security of the UK.

Although the plan says people come first, authorities consider pets during an evacuation.



Flyers and posters used to deal with pets during an emergency.

Here are some of the steps authorities will take to care for pets in an emergency:

  1. Pet care areas : Where possible, rest centers will include some sort of area for pets. It will not necessarily be inside the center itself and could be a secure area outside the center. In October 2017, a fire broke out at the Wing Fat supermarket in Beswick and a couple with a dog found nowhere to stay. The director of the reception center and local authorities went out of their way to find the couple a room in a pet-friendly hotel.
  2. Rest center equipment: Feed and water bowls, appropriate food and water, poop bags, cat trays and litter, dog leashes and cleaning materials will be at rest centers to the extent possible.
  3. Staff of the registration and animal care area: Staff will be trained on how to handle animals. Pets and owners will be checked in upon arrival and appropriate information regarding alternative accommodation will be provided. Details of local vets will be provided if needed.
    If an owner has come alone, they can tell staff where their pet is. An information sheet will be completed with all the useful details and sent to the rescue team. If the evacuation is to last more than 24 hours, every effort will be made to save the animal from the property. Humane traps can be left to capture the animal. Left / Lost / Found notice boards will be installed at the rescue center.
  4. Temporary accommodation for pets: Pet-friendly hotels, boarding schools, catteries, veterinary centers, stables and kennels as well as local farms can be considered. Pets can be placed at Leigh Dogs and Cats Home, Manchester and Cheshire Dogs’ Home and World Horse Welfare for short periods.
  5. Displaced animals: If there is an incident where the owners are missing or have died, there could be homeless animals to return to. Organizations will strive to provide foster homes and new homes for pets.
  6. Financial considerations: Owners are responsible for the costs associated with the care of their pets, including medications or treatments if necessary. Financial support may be available or the RSPCA may agree to cover the cost of housing animals following an incident.
    If a pet dies in a rest center, it is also the owner’s responsibility to arrange for its disposal or to contact pet cemeteries.


This strategy enabled CCRU to be named RSPCA Innovator of the Decade.

Kathy Oldham, Greater Manchester Resilience Manager, said: “Pets are very often part of the family, so it is only fitting that in an emergency we take care of them as well. When people are forced to leave their homes it can be extremely stressful and making sure their pets are included in our planning can help make things a little easier for people.



View down Chancery Lane towards Buckley Street in Shaw

“It is a true honor for Greater Manchester to receive this award and we will continue to work hard to put animals at the heart of our work.”

CCRU staff attended a winners reception in London on Tuesday to receive their awards.

Rachel Williams, Senior Parliamentary Advisor to the RSPCA, said: “The judges of the Innovator of the Decade wanted to recognize unity for contingency planning work as it still is, so many years after the tragic gas explosion that inspired her, the leaders of the countries in this area.

“Their proactive approach to recognizing and promoting animals in their emergency planning work is unmatched – and has a clear and tangible effect on animal and human well-being. “

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