Can I Call 911 for my pet?


You wouldn’t hesitate for a second to call 911 for your partner or spouse nor for your child or any other members of your family. Your pet is like family, which is why you were wondering if you could dial 911 if your pet had an emergency.

You should not call 911 for a pet, as there’s very little that a 911 operator as well as responding firefighters or police officers can do for a pet in an emergency. Instead, contact an emergency animal hospital or your veterinarian.

In this article, we’ll talk further about who you should and shouldn’t call when a pet emergency arises. This is valuable information, especially if you have pets in the house, so make sure you keep reading! 

Can You Call 911 for Your Pet? Why You Should NOT Do This

Your dog is choking on a big chicken bone. Your cat has ingested chocolate and has fallen very ill. 

When you see your beloved four-legged friend in such a condition, you’re going to feel extremely panicked. Unfortunately, panic can rob you of rational decision-making, so you might dial 911. 

911–or your country’s equivalent–is an emergency phone line. However, it’s only designed for human emergencies, not those affecting animals. 

Here’s why you shouldn’t call 911 when your pet is severely injured or ill.

You’re Wasting the 911 Operator’s Time

According to Walden University, every day in the United States, citizens in need will make over 600,000 911 calls. 

Yours is one of the hundreds of thousands that a 911 operator will deal with. Although you do need help and this is a real emergency, in the eyes of the 911 operator, you’re wasting their time since yours is an animal emergency. 

The operator needs to be available to answer other calls for human emergencies, which a 911 operator can help with by deploying the local police department or fire department. 

Your call is unfortunately preventing the operator from doing their job. 

You Could Get in Trouble 

As we’ve written about on the blog, you can’t be denied future services for calling 911 more than needed, but it’s not something you want to make a habit of. 

Some states will fine you and others count the offense as a criminal penalty that could result in jail time.

Of course, calling 911 once for an animal emergency without knowing that you shouldn’t do that is not going to get you in any serious trouble. The 911 operator will likely quickly tell you who to call and then disconnect so they can address other emergencies. 

However, if you do call 911, use our guide for direction on what to do if you accidentally call 911.

You Don’t Have Time When Your Pet Is Ill or Injured 

When your pet has been hit by a car or ingested a poisonous substance, every second counts. 

Even though a 911 call with an operator will be very fast with you on the phone, those are still minutes and seconds that you can’t afford to lose.

You need to have been in the car already and getting your pet on the way to receive the medical attention they very clearly need. 

Who Should You Call for a Pet Emergency?

You might be disheartened to learn that you can’t call 911 for your sick or injured pet, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call anyone.

If the incident happened during your veterinarian’s normal hours of operation, then contact your vet. They’ll likely recommend that you bring your sick or injured pet into the office right away.

We’d suggest having someone else ready the car by turning on the ignition while also finding your pet’s carrier while you’re on the phone. This way, the moment you hang up the phone, you can be ready to go.

As we said before, every second counts, and we want to make that clear. The sooner you can get your poor pet en route to medical attention, the better.

Okay, so what if your vet is closed until tomorrow–or, in the case of a vet with weekend hours–until Monday morning?

You can’t possibly afford to wait days for your pet to be seen. It’s then that you should contact your closest emergency animal hospital.

Ideally, you should research and save the contact information for several emergency animal hospitals near you when you’re not in an emergency situation.  

As we said before, panic robs you of rational thinking, so you might find it hard to look up a hospital or even remember the right number to call when you’re freaking out. 

Really, the call is just to confirm the animal hospital is open and accepting patients. Then you should be in the car and on the way. 

Many people regard pets as family members, which is why when an emergency arises, they want to dial 911 as they would when their other family members are sick.

However, 911 is for human emergencies only and not those of the four-legged friend variety. That goes for any other emergency number equivalent as well such as 999.

You should immediately load up the car and be ready to transport your sick or injured animal to their local vet or an animal hospital if your vet isn’t available. Don’t bother calling 911, as you’re wasting precious time that your pet doesn’t have!

Mike Pertz

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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