Hurricanes can be very traumatic and devastating for families and pets. During a hurricane, thousands of pets can become abandoned and displaced. Your pets can’t plan for themselves, so they rely on us to plan for them. By following these tips, you can help to make an emergency plan for your pets in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Pets should never be left alone to fend for themselves.
Before the storm
Plan Plan Plan! Planning for disasters is key to keeping your pets safe.
§ Photos: Take a photo of your pet. In the event they get lost, having a recent photo showing their current haircut, collar or other identifying marks will be helpful in reuniting your pets. If you get separated from your pets, a shelter may use this as a form of identification if your pet is not microchipped or if your microchip is not currently registered.
§ Microchips: If your pet is not currently microchipped, now is a good time. Contact your veterinarian to schedule microchipping. It only takes a few minutes and usually costs around $25. If your pet is already microchipped, contact the microchip company to verify they have current information. Provide multiple phone numbers so that you have alternate contacts outside of your immediate area in the event you get separated from your pet.
§ Identification: Perhaps the most important element of a disaster plan is identification. During an evacuation, the risk of getting separated from your pet is much higher. Even if your pet is microchipped, they should wear identification. Check your pet’s identification tags to make sure they are accurate and legible. This identification is your pets ticket home.
§ Identify pet-friendly shelters: Take time now to identify all pet-friendly shelters in the area and have a plan. Ideally, you will be planning to stay with a family or friend in another area who is willing to house your pets. However, storms can change quickly so it’s always a good idea to know where the pet-friendly shelters are.
§ Identify pet-friendly hotels: Contact hotels outside of your immediate area to identify the pet-friendly hotels. Inquire about breed restrictions or size limits. Many times hotels waive their normal pet policies in the event of a disaster. For help identifying pet-friendly hotels, visit DogFriendly or BringFido.
§ Medical Record: Obtain a copy of your pet’s medical records especially if they are being treated for a medical condition. If you need to seek medical treatment for your pets while you are away, having these records will help veterinarians understand your pets’ current medical conditions and treatments. Rabies certificates are typically required for pet-friendly shelters.
§ Vaccinations: Ideally, your pets will be able to stay with you during an evacuation, but in the event they must be boarded, proof of current vaccinations are required. Take time now to ensure your vaccination records are current.
Do NOT leave your pets behind. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for them.
If you are in a hurricane evacuation zone, having an emergency evacuation kit for yourselves and your pets will allow you to get out fast. Here’s what should be included in a basic evacuation kit.
§ Medication: Make sure you have at least two weeks of medication especially if your pet is on pain, seizure, or heart medication. It can be dangerous to suddenly stop certain medications. Have a current prescription on hand in case you need a refill.
§ Food and Water for two weeks: If you have to go to a shelter, most would not have enough food for pets so bring your own food, water, and bowls. It’s always a good idea to divide up your food into individual serving size bags in the event that someone else may be responsible for feeding your pets. Abrupt changes in food can cause digestive upset which is not something you would want to deal with during a hurricane. During stressful times, pets often do not want to eat. Adding canned food or toppers are a good way to encourage eating. Estimate about one ounce of water per pound each day for your pets.
§ Treats and chews: Having familiar snacks and a favorite chew will help reduce stress. Having treats available is also helpful to lure a frightened dog during a rescue attempt.
§ Harness and leash: Dogs will need to be on a leash when walking in unfamiliar territory or at shelters. It’s also a good idea to bring an extra leash in case someone else needs one.
§ Identification: All pets should have identification tags on their collars even if they are microchipped. If you are separated from your pet, they will likely be reunited much quicker with an identification tag that contains a phone number.
§ Sanitation: Poop bags, paper towels, and cleaning supplies will be needed. For cats, a litter box, litter, a scoop and trash bag are a necessity.
§ A familiar toy, bed or blanket: Evacuations are stressful for pets just as they are for humans. Having a familiar toy, bed or favorite blanket that smells like home will help to reduce your pet's anxiety.
§ Pet carrier: A pet carrier or crate is a safe place for dogs to be during a storm and they can be used as temporary housing for pets. Be sure to get a crate that is large enough for them to stand up and turn around comfortably. In the event you go to a shelter, your pets will likely be required to spend a large amount of their time in their crates or carriers.
After the storm
It’s always best to keep your pets secured inside after a storm. When you venture outside after a storm with your pets you may encounter dangerous elements such as Downed branches, powerlines or debris. You may also encounter other dangerous wildlife that sought refuge. Keep your pets in a fenced yard or on a leash when venturing outside after a storm and never allow your pets to consume food or water that has been contaminated.
Plan for all pets
As a responsible pet owner, it is our job to keep pets safe. A disaster plan should be utilized for all pets, not just cats and dogs. If you own livestock, horses, birds, rabbits, fish or any other live animal, they should also have a disaster plan. They can’t plan for themselves, so they rely on us to do it for them.