Can You Call 911 For A Dog / Cat / Pet Emergency?

We have all heard the story of the little old lady who called a team of firefighters to help rescue her cat from a tree.

We have seen the cartoons depicting her fluffy friend purring with relief once safely back in her arms, and the smiling servicemen waving from the fire truck as they race off to their next feline emergency. However, these stories are largely mythical. 

In truth, it is not advisable to call 911 if any of your pets are in danger or unwell. On the majority of occasions, you and your pet will be far better served by calling a vet or specialist animal service.

There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t call 911 for animal emergencies and in this article we will look into each of them, as well as going through the appropriate actions that you can take instead. 

Can You Call 911 For A Pet Emergency

By following the right procedures you will increase your pet’s chances of recovery dramatically, and you will also avoid placing unnecessary strain on our very busy emergency workers. 

Who You SHOULD Call In A Pet Emergency

In the case of a pet emergency, it is advisable for you to call a specialist animal service or professional who possesses the knowledge and skills to help your pet. 

Exactly who you call will depend on the situation you are faced with, which is why it is very important to keep a list of important contacts somewhere safe and easy to remember.

Keeping the numbers in your phone will mean that you will have them wherever you go, and sticking them on a notice board or kitchen fridge will mean that they are easy to find even if you are in a panic.

Important telephone numbers include

Your Local Veterinary Surgery

Your local vet clinic will have access to your pet’s medical records and so will be able to offer specific advice about them in the case of an emergency.

If your pet is acting out of sorts, struggling to breath or walk, having a fit or seizure, or has sustained a serious injury or broken bone, then you should call your vet.

Your Personal Vet’s Home Number

Having a home phone number for your veterinarian is helpful if your pet gets sick outside of opening hours, when the clinic is closed. 

Your Local 24 Hour Vet

As not all vets are willing to give out their personal number, having the local 24 hour vets number will enable you to seek help no matter what time of day or night you might need it.

This is very useful during holiday season and other times of the year when your personal vet might be away or busy.

The ASPCA Or Animal Poison Control Center 

The ASPCA are experts at recognizing and treating cases of animal poisoning, and this number could be vitally important should your pet ever eat something toxic or poisonous by accident. We will discuss what symptoms you can look out for to detect a case of poisoning later in this article.

Animal Control

Animal control is an agency who specialise in dealing with incidents involving dangerous or wild animals, as well as animals in distress. You can call them if you are worried about any animal, even if they are not your domestic pet.

For example, if you see a bird that appears to be injured or trapped in the park you could call animal control. If you see a cow or calf that has become lost or stranded on the roadside you could call animal control.

And  if you think that your pet is in danger from another animal, be it a domestic animal or a wild animal, then this is an important number you can call.

Why You Should NOT Call 911 For Pet Emergencies

911 is the telephone number you should call if you are ever facing a human emergency. The call operator will listen to your problem and will then transfer you to the appropriate emergency service, be that fire, ambulance or police.

911 operators can also connect those in trouble to lifeguards, mountain rescue teams and many other specialist emergency services. However, all the 911 services are specific to human emergencies only. 

Unfortunately, the emergency services are in huge demand most of the time. The phone lines are constantly ringing with people calling about accidents, incidents, crimes and emergencies, and this puts a huge strain on the workers.

By calling 911 with an animal emergency you could prevent someone else from being able to get the help they need. As a society, we value human life over that of any other creatures, and that is why human emergencies are given precedence on this line.

What is more, the specialist workers in each of the emergency services are trained to deal with and resolve human problems, and therefore a doctor or paramedic does not possess the correct knowledge and skill set to be of assistance to your pet. 

Emergency services are understaffed and overworked, which is why it is essential you do not call them with an animal emergency. Calling 911 about your cat, dog or other pet will put additional stress on the overstretched workers and increase their workload unnecessarily.

A 911 operator might be able to transfer you to a specialist animal service but it will take up their time and cost your pet precious time. Contacting an animal specialist directly will ensure that your pet gets the help it needs as soon as possible.

Times When You Might Call 911 For An Animal Emergency


There are always exceptions to every rule, and although most animal emergencies do not require the help of 911 services, some situations are different.

In general, you should call 911 if an animal related emergency also involves and affects humans. It is also appropriate to call the emergency services if you suspect that criminal or illegal activity is involved. 

However, it is important to remember that 911 is an EMERGENCY phone line, and it is only meant to be used for matters of an urgent nature that need to be immediately addressed. In some areas of the US 911 centers have to answer 40-50% of non-urgent calls.

It is actually far better to call the local authorities directly, like the local police department or local doctors surgery, rather than block up the 911 phone line. 

Examples of animal emergencies that might require police, hospital or fire services include:

  • If your dog has bitten you or someone else and caused serious injury or harm then you should call 911 or get them to an emergency room quickly.
  • If you see someone abusing or mistreating an animal very badly then you should call the police - although it might be better to call the local police station directly rather than calling 911 unless you think the animal is in mortal danger.
  • If you see a dog who is locked in a very hot car without any windows open and they seem to be distressed, you should call the police.
  • If you suspect that your pet has been stolen then you should call the police to investigate.
  • If your pet has been deliberately hurt or killed by another person or gang then you should call the police.
  • If your animal is caught in a fire you should always call the fire department to the scene and never attempt to rescue them yourself
  • If your dog has been washed out to sea or far from a lake shoreline, then you can call the lifeguard or coastal services
  • If you own a dangerous animal and it escapes from your home, you should call 911 immediately in order to protect those who live in your area.
  • If you think that someone is breeding and selling animals illegally then you should report them to the police.

What You Should Do If Your Cat Is Stuck Up A Tree

Animals do have a habit of getting themselves into tricky situations, and cats are often the most common culprits. Their curiosity, independence and excellent climbing abilities often result in them ending up in some pretty dangerous places where it is difficult for you to reach them.

However, it is important to remember that they are probably far less scared than you are, and far more able to figure out how to get down on their own. As a general rule, if they could work out how to climb up, they will be able to work out how to get down.

That being said, here are a few tricks you can try in order to encourage them to climb down:

  • Call your cats name and coax them down verbally
  • Shake a bowl of their favorite food at the bottom of the tree
  • Waft smelly food towards their direction, like fresh meat or fish
  • Use a toy on a string to gently lure your cat down from a height
  • Hoist a cat box up to their level using strong string and wait for them to climb into it, then gently lower it to the ground. You could place food inside the box to entice them.
  • Create a stable platform as high up as you can manage that your cat can jump onto, and retrieve them from there.
  • Ask a friend to hold a ladder steady as you climb up and gently take hold of your cat. Be warned that you may need long sleeves if your cat tends to scratch when they are scared.

How To Tell If Your Animal Has Been Poisoned

We love our pets because they are so curious and innocent, but sadly this does mean that they are often vulnerable to eating and drinking substances that are poisonous to them.

It is hard to keep track of everything that your pet tastes, chews or swallows, but you can look out for any of the following symptoms if you suspect they have been poisoned:

  • If your pet becomes ill very suddenly having been completely fine beforehand, they may have eaten something toxic.
  • If your pet starts to have a fit or seizure where their muscles contract, they may have been poisoned
  • If your animal froths at the mouth or is violently sick, they may have eaten poison
  • If your animals limbs appear to be weak or paralysed, this could be due to poisoning

In all instances, you should call your vet or 24 hour animal welfare clinic and seek help immediately.

What You Can Do To Prevent Injury And Ill-health In Your Pets

Prevention is always better than a cure, and because you love your pet it is important to keep them as healthy, happy and safe as possible at all times.

  • Giving your pet a balanced and healthy diet will help them to stay fit and well and to live a longer life. It will also stop them from eating potentially poisonous foods through hunger.
  • Training your animal the basic obedience commands will help them stay out of harm's way. A dog that responds to its name, sits, stays and comes back on command, if far less likely to run out onto a road or to go off with a stranger.
  • Taking your pet for regular health check-ups at the vets will prevent serious diseases and injuries from developing undetected.
  • And finally, making sure that you had adequate pet insurance, or a pot of money set aside in case of emergencies is a responsible thing for any pet owner to do. This is because veterinary bills and procedures can be expensive, and it is a terrible to not have the right funds in place to be able to give your pet the care and attention they need.