Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your precious four-footed family members. We recommend all pet owners create a checklist and assemble your own hurricane supply kits. Warnings of hurricanes or other disasters may be issued hours, even days, in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to get ready. Here are some tips and recommendations.
- Arrange for family or friends to shelter you and your pet inland, away from the storm. Have your evacuation route planned and marked on a map.
- For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets well in advance of needing them. There are also a number of guides that list hotels/motels that permit pets. Some hotels/motels will change their no pet policies during emergency situations.
- Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and that you have a current copy of the Vaccine Certificate. We also recommend you have a copy of the pet’s medical records and other important documentation along with the vaccine certificate. You might want to put these documents into a plastic, watertight bag such as a ziplock baggie.
- Include pictures of you and pet family member in your emergency pet kit. Make sure each picture is clearly marked on the back with their name and all of your information.
- Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with identification tags and label all your pet’s belongings. Consider having your pet micro-chipped in case you accidentally become separated during the confusion of an emergency event or evacuation. Proper identification will increase the chances of a safe return home. Click here for more information on micro-chipping.
- Plan on having one to two weeks supply of food and water in airtight containers. Include a hand operated can opener if you have can food. Check periodically and replace with fresh as needed. Stress or eating different food can cause diarrhea in pets, especially dogs. If your pet experiences loose stools, make sure fresh water is available at all times. Allow him/her out frequently to reduce the risk of car problems.
- Have enough water for your pet that is separate from the water you will have available for yourself in emergencies.
- Food and water bowls for each pet.
- One to two weeks supply of all medications your pet is taking clearly labeled with administrative instructions. Be sure to include flea and heartworm preventatives. Check these supplies periodically and adjust and replenish as needed.
- Bring an appropriate-sized carrier for your pet. Your pet should be able to stand up and turn around comfortably. Clearly label this carrier with pet’s name, your name, address and phone number. Keep each pet in a separate carrier, confining smaller pets away from larger ones. Get pets accustomed to the carrier ahead of time. Keep the carrier in an easily accessible place. Make sure your pet is used to wearing a leash and collar/halter. You will want to use the leash at all times when out and about (even if you usually do not.)
- Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats normally get along. Bear in mind that pets react differently under stress. Never leave your pet unattended. Even the most trustworthy pets may panic, try to escape, or even bite or scratch.
- Dry towels or blanket to line carrier and/or use as bedding.
- Your pet’s favorite treats and toys.
- Roll of paper towels, a pooper scooper and plastic bags.
- Litter and litter boxes for cats. Disposable litter boxes are available, but empty soft drink boxes or disposable aluminum pans are good alternatives.
- Additional items such as flashlights with extra batteries, a battery operated phone charger and a battery operated radio to receive important weather/evacuation updates.
Here are some pet friendly hotel websites you may find helpful when traveling with your pets:
If you decide to remain at home with your pet, keep the following in mind
- If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Bring your pets in immediately.
- Pets have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.
- Remember that noise from a storm can frighten a pet. If possible, keep your pet within sight.
- Bottled water can be purchased and/or water may be stored in any container including bathtubs and sinks. If you store water in bathtubs, use rubber stoppers to prevent it from draining over a prolonged period of time.
- Have a two to three week supply of your pet’s dry/canned food stored in air tight containers. Canned food has more moisture in it so your pet will need less water. Favorite treats are also items to keep on hand.
- Candles and kerosene lamps are not recommended due to the potential fire hazard. Purchase battery operated lanterns and flashlights. Be sure to have enough batteries to last for as long as two weeks.
- If your pet is on daily medications, have enough on hand for a two week period. Don’t forget your flea and heartworm preventatives.
- Have newspaper and paper towels on hand for sanitary purposes.
- We recommend that you remove all patio/balcony furniture, potted plants, all loose outdoor items and place them indoors. Flying debris can be extremely dangerous and needlessly upset your pet when walking them outside.
- Close all drapes and blinds in your home to prevent glass from flying into the room.
- Walk your pet on a leash to prevent any sudden panic or confusion. Often, familiar landmarks and scents will be altered and pets can easily become confused and lost.
- Watch for downed power lines and keep in mind that high water can bring snakes, other dangerous animals and debris into your pet’s home territory.
After the Storm
Don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented–pets can easily get lost in such situations. Walk dogs on a leash and keep cats inside (or in carriers, if your house is damaged and they could escape). Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems that may result from stress. If problems persist or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, call us and/or make an appointment to bring your pet in.
In Case You’re Not Home
An evacuation order may come, or a disaster may strike, when you’re at work or out of the house. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be able to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. If so, be sure that the person is comfortable with your pets, knows where your pets are likely to be, knows where your disaster supplies are kept, and has a key to your home. If you use a pet sitting service, they may be able to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
Your pets will appreciate your calm presence and soft, soothing voice during emergencies. If you plan ahead of time for your precious four-footed family members, your evacuation will go more smoothly. Your pet will be under severe trauma during this time so try to keep his/her routine as familiar as possible.