MBAH Companion Animal Sheltering Plan


There are numerous challenges developing shelters for both human and animal which can only be solved by creative ideas and innovative programs. This plan has been developed for the operation of a pet friendly shelter for Mississippi. It is an adaptation of Sarasota County, Florida’s plan, created through investigating industry standards for animal shelters, other Florida counties pet shelter programs as well as ongoing experience.

This plan outlines the pet friendly shelter operation. Not all shelters can be pet friendly. A summary of pet friendly shelters will be included in the appendix as they are put in place in the counties.

A pet friendly shelter is defined as one where the owners and their animals can be housed together or where the animals are adjacently located to the human shelter. This type of sheltering enables the owner to be able to take care of their own animals.


This document was adapted for Mississippi from documents developed in Sarasota County and Monroe County, Florida through the collaborative efforts of individuals from various disciplines and backgrounds. Listed below are the workgroup members:


  • Mississippi Board of Animal Health (MBAH) will direct and control all activities related to animal protection and control during an emergency as outlined in ESF 11.
  • Support agencies include Mississippi Animal Response Team (MART), Mississippi Animal Rescue League, county humane societies, SPCA, county emergency managers, animal control officers, public health officials and other related groups.
  • Any emergency resulting in evacuation of residents to a shelter will result in companion animal issues.
  • Because of the human-animal bond, many people evacuating from a disaster will want to take their animals and remain with their animals for the duration of the emergency.
  • Approximately 65% of US households have companion animals. The majority of the households have more than one pet.
  • The owner or guardian of the animals have ultimate responsibility for their protection
  • In spite of the danger, some people will refuse to evacuate if they are not permitted to bring along and remain with their companion animal(s).
  • Persons having their own transportation out of the risk area, and taking along a companion animal(s), will take that animal(s) with them in their own vehicle(s).
  • Many individuals, having their own transportation out of a risk area and taking along their companion animals, will not seek public shelter, but will rather attempt to obtain private lodging for themselves and their companion animal(s) (e.g., at pet-friendly motels/hotels or at the homes of friends or relatives).
  • Many evacuees, not having their own transportation, will still want to take along their companion animals, and they will want to be sheltered in host areas along with their pets. • Some of the people asked to, or required to, evacuate will choose to leave their pet(s) behind.
  • Of those animals left behind, some will be confined in a home or other facility, others in a fenced-in area, and still others restrained only by a chain, rope, or some type of leash. Other pets will be left unconfined to fend for themselves.
  • Some individuals evacuating from risk areas without their animals will try to return to the area of risk before it is safe to do so in order to locate and/or care for their animals. Some of these individuals will not heed the advice or orders of authorities in regard to entering the affected areas after the storm has passed.
  • When evacuees and their animals are allowed to return to their place of origin, they will generally use the same transportation method as when they left the area of risk.
  • Some evacuees will not evacuate at the time or to the destination specified by local authorities.
  • In spite of some travel and lodging prohibitions, some evacuees will not want to be separated from their companion animal(s), either while in transit or while being sheltered.
  • Some animals will pose a threat to other animals and to people. Therefore, animals being evacuated aboard public transportation need to be appropriately restrained and muzzled, or confined.
  • Some animals may die during the evacuation, sheltering, or return process, and their carcasses will need to be properly handled and disposed.
  • Under the right circumstances and using proper procedures, animals and people can be sheltered together in “pet friendly” shelters.


To provide for the well-being of the public prior to, during, and after disasters by supporting the humane care and treatment of companion animals during an emergency situation.

Concept of operations

The sheltering and protection of animals is the responsibility of their owner. The MBAH is the lead agency for situation assessment and determination of resource needs. As needed, the County will support the protection of animals affected by an emergency to include rescue, sheltering, control, feeding and preventative immunization of animals left homeless, lost or strayed as a result of an emergency. Request for animal protection assistance and resources will be routed through County Emergency Operation Center. Shelters are being established in an effort to assist evacuated residents with their companion cat or dog.



Pet-friendly shelter locations will be those designated by Mississippi Board of Animal Health/Emergency Management Team as meeting the safety standards for humans and/or animals. Areas for animal sheltering shall meet the following minimum requirements:

Cats, Dogs, Birds Area

This area should be large enough to separate species and, if necessary, quarantine for health and safety of animals, owners, and volunteers. Separate areas should be designated for dogs, cats, and other small animals; Owners will be required to bring records of recent vaccinations, identification tags or collars, documentation of animal work status, i.e. seeing eye, disability assistance, NASAR certification, etc. If this area is in a building it should be easy to clean and disinfect, preferably with concrete, tile or vinyl flooring that can easily be hosed out, floor drainage is desirable. If area is outside it should be under a sturdy weather resistant structure such as a military grade tent. There should be access to running water, with available hoses if necessary. Lighting should be adequate to all areas, indoors and outdoors. The facility should be large enough to set up a relief and/or exercise area.

Farm/Exotic Animals

At this time there are County Agri-Centers available for accommodating farm and/or exotic animals. People who have these types of animals should contact these centers.



Check list to use prior to use of facility:

  • Operational water and power
  • Adequate lighting
  • Ingress and egress through all doors, including emergency exits
  • Building security
  • Readily available and tagged (within past 12 months) fire extinguishers
  • Operational ventilation
  • Location and functionality of restrooms

Registration and Intake Area

Located near the animal area entrance, but not a narrow, cramped space. If co-located with a “people” shelter, have clear directions to pet facility. All animal areas will be clearly marked with signs.

Staff and Volunteer Coordination Area

Will be near the registration area for check-in and checkout, and coordination of duties.

Define Animal Areas

NO ANIMAL WILL BE OUTSIDE ITS CONTAINER WITHOUT A LEASH AND IDENTIFICATION. No animal can be accepted, unless circumstances become dire, without proof of a valid vaccination for rabies. Only staff and trained volunteers or animal owners will be allowed to remove any animal from its container.

  1. TRIAGE – This is where animals are tagged, examined, and sent to the appropriate area. The registration agent will ensure that upon arrival each owner has equipment, covers, litter boxes, leashes, food and water bowls, etc., necessary for the care of their pet. Additional supplies available for use will be provided by the various animal shelters. All forms will be kept at the registration desks.
  2. DOGS – The dog area will probably be the largest, as it will entail having several smaller areas within it. It is expected that the number of dogs will outnumber other animals. Alternate housing and care provisions, which may include a local veterinarian kennel, from a local veterinarian will be made for dogs for which there is no proof of a valid vaccination and those animals which appear to be ill, injured, or too aggressive to handle. Separate areas may be provided for older dogs sensitive to noise and activity.
  3. Animals, which appear ill, injured, or aggressive, can be a hazard and liability. The shelter manager and animal shelter workers will ask the owner of any animal which may be a hazard to transport to a vet animal shelter for the duration of the event. It is not within the scope of our plan to manage ill, injured, or contagious pathogens. An isolation area will be provided to hold animals until they can be moved to an alternative location. As circumstances permit, we may assist with the transportation of these animals.
  4. MBAH/MART retains the authority to refuse admittance to any animal that appears uncontrollable or too ill for our capabilities or any animal whose owner is not complying with the minimum standards for entry
  5. Central to or near the dog area should be an animal relief area. This may be indoors or outdoors, depending on weather or other conditions. If outdoors, it is preferable that this be a secure area.
  6. CATS – Cats should be housed in a separate area from dogs if possible. All animals should be in the quietest areas possible. All cats must be in a covered carrier and come with their own litter box, food, medicines, etc.
  7. OTHER SMALL PETS – These include small mammals and birds. These animals should also be in covered cages away from drafts.
  8. FARM ANIMALS AND EXOTIC PETS – Owners of these animals should make plans with the Agri-Centers to accommodate their animals.

Shut Down

Account for all equipment. Logistically, all equipment should be listed as it comes into the shelter and accounted for at shutdown. All equipment will be returned to the agencies or personnel/staff who donated its use and/or to the client who came in with it.

Clean up. All equipment will be cleaned and disinfected. The facility will be policed for cleanliness and damage. Floors will be cleaned and disinfected. All equipment used belonging on the property will be cleaned and returned to its proper place. The MBAH will provide the necessary cleaning and disinfectant supplies.


Shelter Kits – There should be several shelter kits available for the first person on the scene. These kits contain necessary forms and supplies to get things up and running until other volunteers and equipment arrive.

Registration and forms – Pet-friendly shelter staff will have the owners complete forms and give owners a copy of the shelter agreement. The registration forms will notate whether proof of vaccinations is provided for each animal. Registration forms are to be numbered and those numbers correspond with the numbers on the cage card. A 4×6 card will be attached to the cage/carrier with animal’s pertinent information. The registration forms will remain at the registration desk in the file. Animals are then taken to the triage area. Owners will be given instructions for their pets and procedures and responsibilities explained to them. When the owner retrieves his/her pets, volunteers will make sure that all animals and equipment are accounted for. Owners will be required to sign all entrance and exit paperwork.

The best scenario would allow the clients to care for their own pets. However, at the initial stages of this plan the clients are being sheltered separately from their animals. As a result, the pet-friendly shelter staff will be responsible during the time when it is deemed unsafe for the clients to travel between the people shelter and pet shelter areas.

Visitation – At each of the pet-friendly shelters, MBAH/MART staff will have the authority to clear all non-personnel including pet owners from the pet-friendly shelter area before weather conditions become unsafe to return to the people shelter.

Feeding – If the pets are housed with their owners, or while it is safe for the owners to travel between the people shelter and pet shelter areas, the owners are responsible for feeding and watering their own animals, unless special needs dictate, in which case volunteers will be assigned to these duties. As it stands, the animals will be cared for by pet-friendly shelter staff and they will be responsible for the feedings of the animals during the times it is deemed unsafe for the owners to be traveling between the two shelter areas. If the animals belong to Special Medical Needs clients who are not housed at our shelter they will also be cared for by shelter staff and volunteers either at the petfriendly shelter or at a location off site deemed appropriate by MBAH/MART.

Owners shall provide their own food and medicines for their pet(s). Although frequent visits with pets are encouraged, MBAH/MART reserves the right to limit visitation to the pet areas. Preferably no children shall be in the pet area, and the animal care volunteers will have the authority to restrict the pet areas from children visitation.


DOGS – Unless needs dictate, including the unsafe conditions for travel between shelter areas, owners will be responsible for animal relief and exercise in designated areas. If numbers of sheltered pets require, a relief schedule will be devised. The event may prove such that an indoor relief area will need to be set up. This consists of plastic sheeting and newspaper.

CATS – The owner shall provide litter and a litter tray (box) and be responsible for scooping of the litter whenever possible. The pet-friendly shelter staff will be responsible if the animals are sheltered off-site from their owners.

Medication – Unless needs dictate, including the unsafe conditions for travel between shelter areas, owners are responsible for administering all medications to pets. The owner shall make sure that any medication necessary should be given prior to the storm’s arrival and as soon as it is safe after the storm. During the storm the owners will not be able to wander outside their building for safety reasons. The owner should keep a record of medications administered to their pet in case a medical emergency occurs.

Sanitation – It is expected of owners to be the primary caretakers of their pet’s cleanliness and sanitation needs. Outdoor relief areas should be cleaned (scooped) every time the animal defecates. Each owner will pick up and dispose of fouled papers and lay down clean papers for the next dog, in the indoor relief areas. This will help prevent spread of disease and reduce noxious odors. The plastic under the paper will be wiped down a couple of times a day and the area under the plastic will be disinfected when the shelter closes down.

Night staff or volunteers will disinfect floors nightly. Animal care volunteers shall have the authority to make adjustments to the cleaning routine schedule, as needed to protect all of the animals in the shelter.

Cages belonging to shelter will be cleaned and disinfected after each use between animals. Cages and equipment not in use will be returned to the equipment/supply area.

To provide sanitation and infection control, all staff and volunteers will wash and disinfect their hands after handling each animal, any cages, containers, cleaning any relief area, and after any contact with the pets and/or their supplies. As a part of the closing process, the Animal Control staff will clean and disinfect the “pet-sheltering” areas and return the building to its original condition.


Pet supplies to be provided by the owner:

  • Carriers, cages
  • Food and water bowls
  • Leashes, collars, harnesses
  • Various foods
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Sheets and blankets
  • Muzzles
  • Flea control
  • Cat litter, trays
  • Towels
  • Grooming supplies
  • First aid kit


It is hoped that, as disaster preparedness messages continue to reach the public, citizens will pre-plan and as such, fewer will need public shelters. Fortunately, many hotels and motels that do not normally admit pets amend their policies in a disaster. There are many websites available that have links to pet-friendly hotel/motels. Information about petfriendly shelters will be provided on the MBAH website ( and through public information messages.

Pet Owner Rules

Below outlines the basic responsibilities of residents caring for their animal(s). Please review and be prepared to take your part.

  1. Report to the designated registration location with your cat or dog prior to the impact of the storm.
  2. Have identification with you and on your cat or dog and animal cage at all times (see attached pet care outline).
  3. Provide appropriate air craft type animal kennel for your pet.
  4. Provide written proof of current Rabies and distemper vaccinations.
  5. There are designated “living areas” for residents and designated “living areas” for cats and dogs. Do NOT bring your cat or dog to the “residents living areas”.
  6. Agree to feed, water, sanitize and exercise your cat or dog on a scheduled frequency of no less that twice daily.
  7. Do not permit other shelter occupants to handle or approach your animal(s). Cage doors will be latched and secured with wire or rope.
  8. Permit examination of your animal(s) to determine if medical or stress conditions are present and require attention. Agree to the administration of medication to alleviate any symptoms.
  9. Agrees that if your animal become unruly, aggressive, show signs of contagious disease, is infected by parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, etc…) the pet(s) may be removed to a more isolated location.
  10. Acknowledge that failure to follow these rules may result in the removal of your animal(s).
  11. Acknowledge that any decision concerning the care and welfare of their animal(s) and the shelter population as a whole are within the sole discretion of the MBAH/MART or designee – whose decisions are final.
  12. After the storm, any pet found abandoned or without owner in the shelter, will result in the animal being relocated to a humane society/facility with final disposition left to the discretion of MBAH/MART.

Letter to Owner regarding pet care

Mississippi recognizes that in many instances, pets are considered part of the family. This plan has been developed to support residents with their domestic cat and dog. Should you have an exotic pet or require care / sheltering for a pet, the veterinarians have networked themselves together to support needs. We recommend you contact your primary veterinarian who can work with you on options before the event. Cat and dog sheltering in designated pet friendly shelters must have:

  • Written proof of vaccinations from your veterinarian during the past 12 months;
  • Proper ID collar and up to date rabies tag;
  • Proper ID on all belongings;
  • Carrier or cage of sufficient size for the animal to stand, stretch and turn around;
  • Leash;
  • Ample food supply;
  • Ample water supply;
  • Water/food bowls;
  • Any necessary medication(s);
  • Newspapers, plastic disposable gloves and trash bags for handling waste;
  • Favorite toy;
  • Cages will have the owner’s name and address, pet name and other pertinent information labeled clearly and securely on the cage.
  • Water, food and medicines are the owner responsibility;
  • NO veterinarian services are available at the shelter.

Important numbers:

  • Mississippi Animal Rescue League 1-601-969-1631
  • Mississippi Board of Animal Health 1-888-722-3106
  • Your veterinarian office: ____________________

Animal Sheltering


  • Kennel or crate large enough for pet to stand up, turn around comfortably and room for food, and water;
  • Dogs shall be walked at least twice a day for 20-minute intervals;
  • The kennel shall have prominently posted:

    – Owner’s Name;

    – Pets Name;

    – Owner contact information (cell phone, pager, shelter sleeping location, etc…)

  • Potable water shall be available at all times;
  • Water container should be rust proof, cleaned daily and mounted so the animal can not tip it over or urinate in it;
  • Self feeders if used should be mounted so dogs can not urinate or defecate in them;
  • Bedding of blankets or towels must be used and in sufficient quantity readily available should soiling occur;
  • Owner to supply newspapers, plastic disposable gloves and trash bags for owner to handling waste;
  • Medicines and food should be in sufficient quantity to support your animal.


  • Kennel or crate large enough for pet to stand up, turn around comfortably and room for food, water and litter;
  • Cat kennels shall be serviced (cleaned) at least twice a day;
  • The kennel shall have prominently posted:

    – Owner’s Name;

    – Pets name;

    – Owner’s contact information (cell phone, pager, shelter sleeping location, etc…)

  • Cat litter and pan must be provided in each cage;
  • Water and dry food should be available at all times;
  • Bedding of blankets or towels must be used and sufficient quantity readily available should soiling occur;
  • Medicines and food should be in sufficient quantity to support your animal.


Companion animal: Licensed domestic dog or cat

Domestic pet: Licensed dog or cat

Exotic animal: bird, reptile, hamster, ferret, snake, spiders, etc…

Approved crate or kennel: Hardened carrier similar to air flight requirements