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Keeping Your Pets Safe During a Hurricane

As hurricane season approaches, it is vital that residents of hurricane-prone areas be prepared. From having an emergency plan to making sure you have an emergency kit ready, to knowing in advance which emergency numbers to call and where the nearest 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, don’t leave your pets at home when you evacuate. The chance of your pet surviving a hurricane is slim to none. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets. It is important to have an emergency plan for your pets in the event of a hurricane and that your plan includes relocating your pets to a safe place.

In the event of a hurricane, if you need to move to a shelter, you probably won’t be able to bring your pet. Although Red Cross shelters and some others will allow animals to enter with their owner, many shelters will refuse entry. Therefore, it is essential to prepare ahead of time and not be stuck without a safe place to go with your pet during a hurricane.

According to the Florida Department 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 accept your pet(s). If you can’t find pet-friendly shelters, the next step is to contact hotels or motels outside the area to find out what their pet policies are and if they will waive the “no pets” policy in the event of an emergency . You can also contact your vet to ask if they have any suggestions. While you’re researching, be sure to keep a list of pet-friendly resources with phone numbers and addresses. If a hurricane comes your way and you have to evacuate, you’ll be thankful you prepared the list.

Next, it’s 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 an easily accessible area near the exit (preferably with the 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, rollaway pet bed, blankets, cage, flashlight and portable water. Note that you should set aside enough food and water for at least a week. When setting aside food, if your pet eats canned goods either set aside a can opener or buy the easy-to-peel cans. If your pet has special needs such as cat litter, litter box, heat lamp, salt licks, pine bedding, etc., be sure to set those items aside as well. It’s important to note that if your pet is a bird, you’ll still want a blanket ready to cover its cage to reduce stress while traveling. Store all items in a waterproof container that is durable and can be easily transported. It is also important to keep a photo of your pet in the bin, in case your pet goes missing. The key is to have your pet emergency kit ready to use at a moment’s notice. One part of your emergency kit that won’t go in the bin is to securely attach 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 become 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 receive a free sticker by filling out an online form.

When you have a pet emergency kit ready and a list of pet resources, the next step is to stay informed. Monitor any approaching threats by listening to weather reports on TV, radio or the internet. If an evacuation warning is to be issued, you will often have little time to get yourself, your family, and your pets to a safe place. If you hear of an approaching hurricane, call the shelter or pet motel in advance to confirm shelter arrangements. It is also important to keep all your pets with you and indoors, even if you are not at home. In the event that an evacuation order is issued while you are not home, it is important to have a contact, such as a neighbor or friend, who can pick up your pets and meet you at another location.

In addition to having your resources ready, you may want to think about what you can do to keep your pet calm during a hurricane. There are many natural remedies now available to help keep your pet’s stress level down. Products such as Bach’s Flower Remedies or NaturVet Quiet Moments Gel are helpful in dogs and cats that may experience anxiety. Additionally, you may want to purchase some “keep them busy” treats while your pets are bundled up during a hurricane.

If there is a possibility of a hurricane, the best plan if possible is to get to a safe place with your pet. If you cannot find a pet-friendly shelter, 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 evacuation or disaster, you can never have too much information, especially if you are a pet owner. Our pets rely on us to care for and protect them. With preparation and knowledge, all pet owners can make sure their pets are kept safe during a hurricane.

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