Everybody knows that, in the case of an emergency, the first thing you should do is reach for your phone and dial 911. This will immediately connect you to an operator who will be able to dispatch medical care, the fire service, or the police directly to your location.
But, what happens if there has been an incident involving an animal? Can you call 911 for a pet emergency? Whether it’s a dog, a cat, or any other type of animal, the simple answer is no, you cannot call 911 for a pet emergency.
We’ll go into more detail as to why below, but the main thing you need to know is that 911 is an emergency number reserved for humans only.
With this in mind, just who should you call in case of a pet emergency? Below, we’ll look at some different scenarios when your pet may need emergency assistance, and, most importantly, we’ll explain what to do in these situations.
Can You Call 911 For Your Pet?
As we’ve explained briefly above, you cannot call 911 for your pet. This number is used to dispatch police officers, firefighters, and paramedics to the scene of an emergency that involves humans.
But why can’t you call 911 for a pet emergency? The main reason is fairly simple. Even though they operate on a 24/7/365 basis, the emergency services have a limited number of resources available.
If they were to attend an emergency involving your pet, there’s a real chance that they wouldn’t be able to attend a human emergency elsewhere.
Another reason why is because animal anatomy and human anatomy are very different. Paramedics and EMTs are trained and equipped to deal with a huge range of emergency medical situations. However, they aren’t trained to deal with the medical needs of a pet.
There are a couple of exceptions where you are allowed to call 911 in case of an animal emergency, though. One such exception is if there has been a human emergency involving an animal. In this case, you can call 911 as a human has been injured.
For example, if your dog has bitten somebody, you can call. However, if your dog has bitten another dog, you can’t call as no humans were injured.
Some fire departments can also be used to provide pest control, but only if the pest is a direct danger to human life. For instance, one fire department in Arizona will remove rattlesnakes, but only if they consider them a threat.
Some police officers and firefighters have also been known to rescue cats stuck up trees, but this is a very rare occurrence and it certainly isn’t something that you should consider calling 911 for.
Who Should You Call If You Have A Pet Emergency?
It’s really tempting to call 911 if you have a pet emergency. They’re a much-loved member of your family, after all.
However, as we’ve explained above, the emergency services have a limited number of resources available and they are only trained to deal with emergencies involving humans. As such, you should never call 911 in an emergency involving your pet.
So, who should you call if your cat or your dog needs urgent attention? You actually have a few options available to you.
Option 1 - Call Your Vet
This should be considered as your first point of call. Even if it's outside of their usual surgery hours, there is a good chance that you’ll find a voicemail with details of their emergency care line.
Even better, some veterinarian offices will automatically divert your call to the emergency vet on duty.
Option 2 - Contact Your Nearest 24-Hour Animal Hospital
If your veterinarian’s office doesn’t provide emergency care, your next best option is to contact your nearest 24-hour animal hospital. A quick online search will bring up the nearest location to your house, but you can also find a local animal hospital by entering your zip code here.
Option 3 - Contact Poison Control
If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic and they are displaying side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, or anything else out of character, contact poison control.
In many cases, this is your best bet if you believe your pet has been poisoned as their specialist medical staff will be able to identify the specific poison and provide the correct course of treatment.
Here are the numbers you need:
- Animal Poison Control: (888) 426-4435
- Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 764-7661
What To Do If It’s a Wildlife Emergency
If you’ve come across an injured wild animal such as a deer or a fox, you also shouldn’t call 911 for assistance. Instead, follow any of the steps above or visit www.ahnow.org and you’ll find all of the advice you need.
How To Act If Your Pet Has An Emergency
All pets, especially dogs, pick up on your behavior. And, if you’re acting in a panicked fashion during an emergency, they may become increasingly stressed. This really won’t help to reassure them that everything is going to be okay.
With this in mind, if your pet is in need of urgent care, here are a couple of simple things you can do to help them feel safe while they are most vulnerable.
- Remain calm: As we’ve said above, if you’re acting erratically or panicking, your pet will pick up on your behavior and they could become even more stressed. So, try and remain as calm as possible. This will help you make clearer, level-headed decisions as well.
- Stay with your pet: If at all possible, stay by your pet’s side and reassure them while you make your phone calls to your veterinarian’s office, local animal, or poison control.
How To Transport Your Pet If They Are Injured
Animal ambulances do exist but, in most cases, you’ll need to take your pet to your veterinarian’s office or animal hospital. When you do this, you need to make sure that they are as safe and as comfortable as possible while you move them. If not, you may accidentally make the issue worse.
How To Transport An Injured Dog
If your dog is injured, you’ll need to approach them slowly and calmly. As we’ve said above, any frantic behavior will only cause them further stress.
Kneel down in front of your dog and offer them reassurance. Next, you’ll need to fashion a makeshift stretcher out of something (such as their dog bed or your sofa cushions) and gently lift them onto it.
Use this makeshift stretcher to take them out to your car and, if possible, have somebody else drive.
When doing this, take care to support their neck and their back. This will help prevent any further damage to potential spinal injuries.
How To Transport An Injured Cat
As is the case with dogs, the first thing you need to do is approach your cat calmly and quietly. Offer them reassurance while placing a blanket or a towel over their head (this will prevent biting), then gently pick them up and lower them into an open-topped carrier box.
Again, take care to support their neck and their spine as you lower them into their box. This will help prevent further damage to any spinal injuries.
Can You Call 911 For A Missing Pet?
This is another situation where it’s tempting for pet owners to call 911. However, if your pet does go missing, the best thing to do is to contact your local police station directly. The 911 number is reserved for human-only emergencies.
Even if you suspect that your dog has been stolen, you should still contact your local police station rather than calling 911. The only exception to this rule is when you can’t find details for your local police station anywhere.
In this case, call 911 and they will most likely transfer your call to the station.
It’s also important to call animal control if your pet goes missing or if you suspect somebody has stolen them. They have the trained staff and proper resources to help you find and retrieve a lost pet as efficiently as possible.
They’ll also be able to put a call out to all of their workers and, if your pet is spotted, they’ll pick it up and bring it back to their headquarters.
Should You Call 911 For Animal Control?
While animal control is responsible for dealing with certain pet emergencies, they aren’t considered as one of the main emergency services. As such, you shouldn’t call 911 to get hold of them.
Instead, perform a quick online search for your local animal control’s contact details. These aren't usually very hard to find and you’ll be saving yourself time by contacting the right people straight away.
Not to mention, you’ll also be freeing up the 911 emergency contact line for somebody who really needs it.
To sum up, there aren’t very many cases in which you should call 911 for a pet emergency. This number should only be used for emergencies where human lives are in jeopardy. As such, these services wouldn’t really be able to help your pet anyway!
If your pet does need urgent medical attention, contact your veterinarian’s office or your local animal hospital. These places are much better equipped to deal with animal emergencies.
If your pet goes missing or has been stolen, you should also avoid calling 911. Instead, contact your local police station and file the report with them.
The only exception to the rule of never calling 911 for an animal emergency is when you’ve already explored every other route. If you can’t find urgent medical care for your pet or you can’t contact your local police station, call 911 and they’ll point you in the right direction.