Animal Preparedness

Livestock evacuation | Caldor Fire, 2021 | Photo courtesy of CBS News

Bear/North Complex Fire Animal Rescue, 2020 | Photo Courtesy of North Valley Animal Disaster Group

UC Davis VERT provides veterinary care to rescued horse during the Lightning Complex Fire, 2020 | Photo Courtesy of UC Davis


Cal OES works hand in hand with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the lead agency for ESF-11, to support local governments in their response to animals in disasters through various systems, partnerships, and resources. Animals and livestock are an integral part of our society, and must be considered in all phases in emergency management. This page exists as a one-stop-shop resource for the many tools related to animal preparedness and response whether you own pets, a hobby farm, or are an agricultural producer.

Animals in Disasters Working Group

California Department of Food and Agriculture and Cal OES co-lead a workgroup of identified stakeholders to address ongoing issues regarding animal evacuation, care, and shelter in disasters. The working group is a standing body that meets regularly and develops new or enhance existing resources such as policies, guidance, people, and equipment.

Goals of the Animals in Disasters Working Group:

  • Identify, resolve, and provide statewide guidance on animal disaster issues for local governments.
  • Continually reassess and identify critical issues that are animal-related for resolution.


COVID-19 Information – The California Department of Food and Agriculture has created the Disaster Care and Shelter Considerations for Livestock, Service, and Companion Animals in the COVID-19 Pandemic Environment, a document that provides a range of possible sheltering options for livestock and companion animals.

California Animal Response Emergency System (CARES)

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in response to legislation signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on September 29, 2006 has been working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture in the development of the California Animal Response Emergency System (CARES). The California Emergency Services Act, Section 8608, includes direction on implementation and authorities of the CARES program.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Cal OES and CDFA was agreed upon and signed as required by the government code. The development of planning documents and a concept of operations continues as lessons learned from the 2007 Southern California Fires as well as more recent emergencies are studied and incorporated into the process. 

Animals play an integral role in society. In many homes, pets are considered to be members of the family. Working animals provide valuable services to the community and production livestock contribute millions to the economy. It is no wonder then, that when disaster strikes, citizens are intensely concerned about their animals. Numerous studies have shown that people are reluctant to evacuate during a disaster without their animals. Images like the one of “Rodeo”, a Border Collie stranded on a roof in the 1997 Yuba floods, make a lasting impression and cause the community to ask, “What is being done for animals during disasters?” To answer, the State of California has created the CARES through the joint efforts of the Cal OES and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

California is home to nearly 19 million domestic animals. Polls conducted in 2012 estimate that California is home to 6.7 million dogs and 7.1 million cats. The California Department of Food and Agriculture reported in 2012 that there are over 5.5 million cattle in California, 570,000 sheep, 141,000 goats, 670,000 horses, just over 100,000 hogs, and millions of chickens in the Golden State. Approximately one out of every three households in California owns a dog or a cat.

CARES is an operational guidance to assist with all aspects of animal care and control in the event of a disaster or emergency. In addition, CARES provides resources for the public, for animal businesses, for shelters, and for emergency planners. CARES is structured in accordance with the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS).

For more information visit the CARES Website at

Animal and Livestock Preparedness

Evacuation Resources

Carcass Management

Danielle Chapman

Danielle Chapman

Emergency Services Coordinator

Office: (916) 845-8153