In an emergency situation, the priority is survival amidst limited options—perhaps you’ve lost power, or have to evacuate your home, or driving conditions are dangerous and you have limited access to essentials like water, heat, phone, or internet.
While these are rare occurrences, emergency planning is recommended for anyone with reptile pets as herps have unique requirements and should not be left behind in your home during life-threatening situations.
You’ll feel more confident in any situation with a little prepping and a few creative solutions in your back pocket. Remember, the goal is survival. Ideal husbandry standards will be put on hold as you focus on providing the necessary care for your reptile to live. For example, during a power outage, a heat source is critically necessary for your snake, however a thermostat is not critically necessary if it’s not an option, nor is feeding your reptile recommended (this is potentially dangerous without proper and reliable heating to aid in digestion) until your vet provides guidance for resuming feeding post-crisis.
Emergency planning tips and supplies for your reptile in an impending weather crisis:
Prep your paperwork
- Create a running list of all your animals and include details like: species, color, unique characteristics, medications, and a photo. In the event you need documents to help prove ownership, it’s helpful to have a copy of purchase papers, microchip information, vet records, etc.
- Ensure your reptile's medical records are up to date in case emergency kennels or animal shelters require them.
- Create a release form template so it’s ready to go if you need to send your pets to a neighbor or friend during a weather event. This is simply a signed letter releasing your neighbor or friend from responsibility and a signed veterinary medical treatment authorization form.
Stock your supplies
- Traveling enclosure: Plastic, lidded tubs work well as a lightweight, escape proof emergency container for each reptile. Make sure to cut holes for ventilation (small enough your animal can’t escape). For larger herps, a pet carrier works well. If needed as a last resort, most reptiles / snakes can be transported in a secured pillow case—check it for holes first. (Snake bags are available here at Bean Farm.)
- Waterproof container for supplies: A securely-lidded plastic tub also works well to travel with your reptiles’ supplies, printed documents, supplements, and medications.
- Food: Take with you one week's worth of non-perishable reptile food, feeding tools, and drinking water.
- Reptile supplies: 72-hour heat pack(s), Veterycin antimicrobial reptile wound and skin care, F10 disinfectant, F10 cleaner / sanitizer, gauze and bandage wrap, cotton swabs, tweezers, Provent-a-mite, diluted electrolyte solutions and/or needle-less syringe in case of dehydration, NutriBAC probiotic supplement, and paper towels.
Know your pet-friendly, temporary shelter locations
Start by researching the most accessible options in your area. Write down the pet-friendly options, as well as the shelters that will not accept pets, for easy future reference. While you’re at it, take note of all exotic vets and reptile-focused social media groups in your area. That will be helpful in case you need the resources they offer during an emergency, or to make connections with people nearby who are willing to take in your animals temporarily during power outages.
- Public shelters generally do not accommodate pets. Check with your local emergency management to see if they've planned for pet shelters.
- Survey boarding kennels or veterinary clinics to ask their emergency policies.
- Call motels to see if they allow people with pets in emergencies.
- Arrange for relatives or friends in a safe area to hold your pets while your home is off limits.
- Identify a willing neighbor to care for your pets in case you are not at home when a disaster occurs. Make sure the neighbor has a key to your home, is familiar with your pets and knows where your evacuation and first-aid supplies are kept. This is where a signed letter releasing your neighbor from responsibility will be helpful, and a signed veterinary medical treatment authorization form.
- Additional resources include animal control, your local humane organization, animal shelters, and local Red Cross chapter.
After a weather crisis
Hold off feeding your reptile until you’ve spoken with your trusted veterinarian, to ensure there is no risk to your animal—even if power has been restored.
You will also want to gently and briefly assess your reptiles for injury, as well as inspecting glass enclosures, devices, and bulbs for any breakage.