When a hurricane threatens, do you have a plan for your pets? Do you have a safe spot for them in your home? What will you do with them if you can’t stay in your home?
The Humane Society of the United States encourages pet owners to have a disaster preparedness plan in place that includes the four-legged members of the family.
• ID your pet: Make sure that cats and dogs are wearing collars and identification tags that are up to date. You’ll increase your chances of being reunited with pets who get lost by having them microchipped; make sure the microchip registration is in your name. But remember: The average person who finds your pet won’t be able to scan for a chip, but they will probably be able to read a basic tag.
• Put your cell phone number on your pet’s tag. It may also be a good idea to include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area – in case you have had to evacuate.
• If you evacuate, take your pet. If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. You have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able – or allowed – to go back for your pets. Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. Remember to make plans for ALL your pets; during natural disasters, disaster plans for feral or outdoor cats, horses and animals on farms can be lifesavers.
• Evacuate early. Don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order. Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been told to leave their pets behind. The smell of smoke or the sound of high winds or thunder may make your pet more fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier. Evacuating before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful.
• Find a safe place to stay ahead of time. Before a disaster hits, check the website of your local office of emergency management to see if you will be allowed to evacuate with your pets and verify that there will be shelters in your area that take people and their pets. Also be sure to review how they are managing social distancing needs. If you plan to take your pet to a shelter, find out what kind of cage or pet carrier will be required. Be sure to pack your pets food, water dish, toys, blankets and any medications.
• Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to find out if they accept pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size and species. Inquire if a “no pet” policy would be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of animal-friendly places handy, and call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home. Several websites offer lists of pet friendly lodgings: Bringfido.com, Dogfriendly.com, Doginmysuitcase.com, Pet-friendly-hotels.com, Pets-allowed-hotels.com, Petswelcome.com; Tripswithpets.com.
• Make arrangements with friends or relatives. Ask people outside your immediate area if they would be able to shelter you and your pets – or just your pets – if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to arrange to house them at separate locations.
• If you have a fish tank, invest in a battery-operated aerator (the kind used for live wells on boats), in case your home loses power during a storm.
If you stay at home with your pets, do it safely. Tips include:
• Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide.
• Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area.
• Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.
• If you have a room you can designate as a “safe room,” put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet’s crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies.
• If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape.
• Follow local news outlets online or listen to the radio periodically, and don’t come out until you know it’s safe.
After a storm, protect your pet from dangers.
• 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. There could also be a lot of debris, such as roofing nails and broken glass, that could cause injuries.
• While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, your pets 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 caused by the stress of the situation. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.
• If your community has been flooded, check your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there. Wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet.