Keeping Your Pets Safe During a Hurricane

With the arrival of hurricane season, it is vital that residents of hurricane-prone areas are prepared. From having an emergency plan in place to making sure you have an emergency kit ready to go to knowing in advance what emergency numbers to call and where your nearest hurricane shelter will be if you need to evacuate. Unfortunately, all too often people overlook their pets when it comes to hurricane safety. And whatever you do, don’t leave your pets at home when you evacuate. The likelihood of your pet surviving a hurricane is slim and unlikely. If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets. It is critical to have an emergency plan in place for your pets in the event of a hurricane and that your plan involves having your pets relocated to safety.

In the event of a hurricane, if you must evacuate to a shelter, you will most likely not be able to bring your pet. Although Red Cross and some other shelters will allow service animals with their owner, many shelters will refuse entry. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare the nest in advance rather than being left 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 a local shelter will admit your pet (s). If you can’t find a pet-friendly shelter, the next step is to contact out-of-area hotels or motels to find out what their pet policies are and if they would waive a “no pets” policy in the event of an emergency. You may also want to contact your vet to ask if they have any suggestions. As you do your research, be sure to keep a list of pet-friendly resources with phone numbers and addresses. If a hurricane is approaching and you need to evacuate, you will appreciate having prepared the list.

Next, it is also important to have an emergency kit ready for your pet. As with all emergency kits, pet kits should be pre-assembled, left in an easily accessible area near the exit (preferably with your emergency kit as well), and ready to use. Pet kits should contain important documents (veterinary records, etc.), medications, first aid kit, food, bowls, leashes, toys, folding pet bed, blankets, cage, flashlight, and portable water. Keep in mind that you need to reserve enough food and water for at least a week. When reserving food, if your pet eats canned food, reserve a can opener or buy the easy-peel cans. If your pet has special needs, such as cat litter, litter box, heat lamp, salt fang, pine bedding, etc., be sure to set those items aside as well. It is important to note that if your pet is a bird, you will still want a blanket ready so that you can cover its cage and reduce stress while traveling. Keep all items in a waterproof container that is sturdy and can be easily transported. Also, it is important to keep a photo of your pet in the container in case your pet gets lost. The key is to have your pet’s emergency kit ready to go at any time. One part of your emergency kit that will not go in the trash is to securely fasten your current contact information to your pet’s neck or legs (birds), if possible. If you have birds, small animals, or reptiles, you may also want to tag your pet’s cage. In the event that you are separated from your pet, emergency teams will be able to contact you using the information you provided on your pet’s collar. Lastly, get a rescue alert sticker. By visiting the ASPCA online, you can get a free sticker by completing an online form.

When you have a pet emergency kit and list of pet resources ready to go, the next step is to stay informed. Keep track of approaching threats by listening to weather reports on television, radio, or the Internet. If an evacuation warning is to be issued, you will often have some time to get yourself, your family, and your pets to safety. If you learn a hurricane is approaching, call the pet shelter or motel ahead of time to confirm shelter arrangements. It is also important to have all your pets with you and inside, even if you are not at home. In the event that an evacuation order arrives while you are not home, it is essential to have a contact, such as a neighbor or friend, who can pick up your pets and meet you elsewhere.

In addition to having your resources ready, you may want to think ahead about what you can do to keep your pet calm during a hurricane. There are several natural remedies now available to help keep your pet’s stress level low. Products such as Bach Flower Remedies or NaturVet Quiet Moments Gel are helpful for dogs and cats that may experience anxiety. Also, you may want to buy some treats to “keep them busy” while your pets are indoors for the duration of a hurricane.

If there is a possibility of a hurricane, the best plan if possible is to go to a safe place with your pet. If you cannot find a shelter that allows pets, you may need to leave the area and evacuate to a safe place where you can stay with your pet.

In addition to this article, there are excellent resources available for pet owners on the FEMA and ASPCA websites. In the event of a hurricane or disaster evacuation, you can never have too much information, especially if you have a pet. Our pets trust us to care for and protect them. With preparation and knowledge, all pet owners can ensure that their pets stay safe during a hurricane.

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