With the approaching hurricane season, it is vital that residents of hurricane prone areas be prepared. From having an emergency plan in place to making certain you have an emergency kit ready to go to knowing ahead of time what emergency numbers to call and where your closest hurricane shelter will be if you need to evacuate. Unfortunately, too often people overlook their pets when it comes to hurricane safety. And whatever you do, do not leave your pets at home when you evacuate. Your pet’s chance of surviving a hurricane is minimal and unlikely. If it isn’t safe for you, it is not safe for your pets. It is critical to have an emergency plan established for your pets in the event of a hurricane and that your plan involves your pets being relocated to safety.
In the event of a hurricane, if you are required to evacuate to a shelter, you will most likely not be able to bring your pet. Although Red Cross shelters and some others will allow services animals in with their owner, many shelters will refuse entrance. It is therefore nest to be prepared ahead of time rather than stuck without a safe place to go with your pet during a hurricane.
According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, more and more communities are developing pet friendly shelter plans. The key is to do your research ahead of time and find out if any local shelters will admit your pet(s). If you cannot find any pet friendly shelters, the next step is to contact hotels or motels outside of the area to find out what their pet policies are and if they would waive a « no pet » policy in the event of an emergency. You may want to contact your veterinarian as well to ask them if they have any suggestions. While doing research, make certain to keep a list of pet friendly resources with phone numbers and addresses. If a hurricane comes your way and you need to evacuate, you will be thankful that you had the list prepared.
Next, it is important to have an emergency kit ready for your pet as well. As with all emergency kits, pet kits should be pre-assembled, left in one easy to access area close to the exit (preferable with your emergency kit as well) and ready to go. Pet kits should contain important documents (veterinary records etc.), medications, first aid kit, food, bowls, leashes, toys, foldable pet bed, blankets, crate, flashlight and portable water. Please note that you should set aside enough food and water for at least one week. When setting aside food, if your pet eats canned food either set aside a can opener or purchase the easy peel cans. If your pet has any special needs, like needs cat litter, litter box, heat lamp, salt lick, pine bedding etc., make sure to set aside those items as well. It is important to note that if your pet is a bird, you will still want a blanket ready to go so you can cover their cage to reduce stress while traveling. Keep all items in a water proof container that is sturdy and can easily be transported. Also, it is important to keep a photo of your pet in the bin as well in the event your pet is lost. The key is to have your pet emergency kit ready to go at a moments notice. One part of your emergency kit that will not go in the bin is securely fastening your current contact information to your pet’s collars or leg (birds) if possible. If you have birds, small animals or reptiles, you may want to label your pet’s cage as well. In the event that you get separated from your pet, emergency crews will be able to contact you with the information you have provided on your pet’s collar. Finally, get a Rescue Alert Sticker. By visiting the ASPCA online, you can get a free sticker by filling out an online form.
When you have a pet emergency kit and a list of pet resources ready to go, the next step is to stay informed. Keep track of any approaching threats by listening to weather information on the television, radio or internet. If an evacuation warning is to be issued, you will often have some time to get yourself, your family and pets to a safe place. If you hear of an approaching hurricane, call the pet shelter or motel ahead of time to confirm shelter arrangements. It is also important to keep all of your pets with you and indoors, even if you are not at home. In the event that an evacuation order comes while you are not home, it is critical to have a contact, like a neighbor or friend, in place who can pick up your pets and meet you at another location.
In addition to having your resources ready, you may want to think a head of time what you may be able to do to keep your pet calm during a hurricane. There are several natural remedies now available to help your pet’s stress level stay down. Products like Bach’s Flower Remedies or NaturVet Quiet Moments Gel are helpful to dogs and cats that may experience anxiety. In addition, you may want to purchase some « keep them busy » treats while your pets are cooped up during the duration of a hurricane.
If a hurricane is a possibility, the best plan if possible is to go to a safe place with your pet. If you cannot find a pet friendly shelter, it might behoove you to leave the area and evacuate to a place of safety where you can stay with your pet.
In addition to this article, there are excellent resources available for pet owners on FEMA’s and ASPCA’s websites. In the event of a hurricane or disaster evacuation, you can never have too much information, especially if you are a pet owner. Our pets rely on us to take care of them and protect them. With preparation and knowledge, all pet owners can make certain that their pets will be kept safe during a hurricane.