Temporary Emergency Animal Sheltering in Natural Disasters


Beth Gammie, Director of Field Services, RedRover


It is essential for the animal welfare community to come together and help government agencies provide temporary emergency animal sheltering for communities evacuating from natural disasters. This is an awareness-level session on what temporary emergency animal sheltering is and how to go about it. The session will include discussion on the different types of emergency shelters, how to set one up and supply and staff it, daily operations, how to maximize reunification of animals with their people, communications and demobilization.


  1. What is temporary emergency animal sheltering, and why is it crucial in natural disasters? Studies show that up to 40% of people will not evacuate in natural disasters if they are not able to bring their pets with them. This leads to untold human and animal suffering and loss of life. Temporary emergency animal shelters provide sheltering for animals evacuated or rescued from natural disasters, and there are three different types: 1) Co-habitated: people living side-by-side with their animals; 2) Co-located: people and animals living under the same roof, but in separate living areas and 3) Stand-alone temporary shelter: only shelters animals (often nearby a Red Cross or other human shelter). We’ll discuss the pros and cons of the different shelter types.
  2. How to set up, supply and staff a temporary emergency animal shelter: we’ll cover issues such as how to select a sheltering site, basics on laying it out (the sections that are needed) and how to go about getting the supplies and staffing needed to run it. We’ll also cover the basics of operations, from intake to reunification.
  3. Reunification of animals with their people should be the North Star, guiding all your sheltering decisions. In the chaos and stress of disaster, it is easy to put reunification on the back burner. However, unless reunification is a focus for the emergency shelter from the beginning, many people and animals from the disaster will never be reunited. This is of course a tragedy for the animals, who lose their family. It is also tragic and extremely painful for people, who may have lost everything in the disaster. There are decision points all along the way: selecting a shelter site, the type of shelter, best practices on intake and communications that can facilitate reunification. We’ll discuss all of these, as well as lessons learned on reunification.


Beth Gammie is the Director of Field Services for RedRover, an American animal welfare organization headquartered in Sacramento, California. In this role, Beth leads the RedRover Responders Program, which provides emergency animal sheltering in natural disasters and large-scale cruelty seizures throughout the United States and Canada. Prior to this position, she was a volunteer with RedRover and other animal welfare groups. Beth lives in Tallahassee, Florida and is staff to her 4 cats.