Many of the evacuees who were forced to flee the Camp and Woolsey wildfires in California were unable to bring their animals with them. Pets can be a crucial factor in a person’s decision to evacuate areas affected by natural disasters.

Sarah E. DeYoung, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia Institute for Disaster Management, is currently researching how owning a pet factors into our decision-making during a disaster, says emergency preparedness plans rarely include protocols for animals.

 “It’s important to note that when people cannot evacuate safely with their animals, they may attempt early re-entry into the affected community so that they can locate their pets or feed animals left behind, including stray animals.”

Further, she says, shelters are often unprepared to take animals, leading to more difficult decisions for evacuees

Dr. DeYoung can be reached at 706-713-2758 or

DeYoung has been collecting data about pets and wildfire evacuations for about a year now. She has a Facebook page devoted to her project’s progress,

Register for reporter access to contact details