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Pets and 911-When You Have to Call for Emergency Care

by Ryan Jo Summers

One of life’s scariest moments is when we need to contact 911 for an emergency. But when we do, we should consider the family pets when emergency crews arrive.

Are there protective dogs who will prevent first responders from reaching the victim without needing to endanger themselves? Do they now have to wait for backup assistance before they can aid the victim? Are there cats or other pets who might escape in the confusion, thereby adding to the stress? Is there a dog guarding the gate to keep strangers (even helpful ones) off the property?

If you live alone, and need to be transported, who is going to care for your pets? They might have to be rounded up if they escaped or released from where you secured them, depending on the emergency. What if a house fire leaves you without a home and temporarily hospitalized? What happens to your beloved pet? If you can share details, plans, and even better, contact names, with emergency responders, they could start helping you care for your pets as well as helping you.

Many first responders and emergency personnel are pet owners and animal lovers too, and only want to help as much as possible. But they have to be informed from the very beginning. Whatever the situation, emergency workers deserve to know all there is about the situation they are responding to. Is there a protective dog? Pets who might escape? All those kinds of things need to be established during that initial phone call to 911. Disclose all animals and their locations. Give rescue workers the time needed for preparations and arranging any necessary backup before they arrive. Sharing information can prevent tragic outcomes.

So, first concern during an emergency is to call 911 and share all important information. Second concern is to deal with any pets that need it, if possible.

In 2017 CNN featured dogs that are now being trained to call 911 for emergency help. Using new technology developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Animal Computer Interaction Lab allowed dogs to communicate with humans using a high-tech vest and paw-touch screens.. Melody Jackson is behind the FIDO project and has used border collies, papillons, and Labrador retrievers successfully.*

* 6-27-2017

Perhaps one day soon we can train our own dogs trained to call 911 for us and use technology to alert emergency personnel to all household pets. Until then, it is up to us to help those who come to help.

Ryan Jo Summers is a local author and animal advocate and a professional in the pet care industry for over thirty years. Her home is a haven to a menagerie of rescued animals. To find out more about Ryan’s writing and her pets, visit or her Facebook pages


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