As we are officially celebrating summer here in Hampton Roads, we are also in the beginnings of hurricane season, which doesn’t end until November 30. Humans aren’t the only ones that need to be prepared during inclement weather. Pet families should have an emergency plan that includes the safety of their animals and always be informed about the potential for evacuation in their area. Don’t get caught unprepared! Keep our hurricane pet safety tips handy so you can be ready to evacuate and/or protect your pets at home in case of an emergency.

Evacuation Planning:
If you choose to evacuate during a hurricane, remember that your pets are safest when they are with you! If you go, take your pets with you. Before our area is under a threat of a hurricane, you’ll want to plan ahead so that you know all of your options. Start by locating pet-friendly hotels along your preferred evacuation route so that you will be able to call and make reservations as soon as you decide to leave the area. Websites like www.dogfriendly.com or www.petswelcome.com can help locate pet-friendly housing around the country. You may also want to check with your veterinarian and preferred boarding facilities to see if pets will be accommodated in the event of an emergency. These can be good resources both locally and in your desired evacuation location. Keep in mind that your pet will need to be current on all required vaccines to be able to board in most of these facilities- don’t leave this until the last minute! Check with your veterinarian ahead of time to see if any vaccines are set to expire during hurricane season. At the same time you may want to ensure you keep at least a 2 week supply of all medications your pet is on in case you need to evacuate. Most hospitals and pharmacies will be very busy with last minute preparations and you don’t want to be caught without enough medication! This should include any anxiety tools your pet uses for storms or stressful situations- these may include medications, Thunder-shirts, calming nutraceuticals, essential oil products, or pheromone products, etc.

Surveys have shown that 68% of American households have at least one pet living in them. According to a recent poll, 61% of pet owners will not evacuate if they cannot bring their pets with them. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many cities have developed pet-friendly shelters to help accommodate residents who need to evacuate their homes in an emergency. You will want to research the location, telephone number, and requirements of your city’s emergency shelter and keep that information handy. Some of these shelters allow you to bring your pets with you, while others provide a nearby facility to board pets while owners are using the emergency shelter.

Packing:
Remember that emergency shelters are usually equipped with the barest accommodations. Whether you are evacuating to a different location or to a nearby shelter, you will need to pack enough food and bottled water for your pets for at least 5 days. Keeping your pet on the same food and water that they are accustomed to can help decrease the chance of gastrointestinal upset. You will want to pack food and water dishes as well, along with any medications that your pet is taking. If you are packing canned food remember to also pack a manual can-opener if needed. In shelters, most dogs and cats need to be in crates or carriers due to the sheer number of animals being housed. Bring these (labeled with your name, your pets’ name, address, and telephone number) with you to protect your pets in the car, shelter, and in unfamiliar locations as well. For cats, make sure to pack a litter box and cat litter. For dogs, pack enough bags for collection and disposal of pet waste. Your pet will need its current Rabies tag and city tags, as well as their up-to-date identification tags. Bring a copy of the pets’ veterinary records (including regular and emergency veterinary contact information) as well as recent photos that could help identify the pet in the event you are separated. It is also recommended that you pack a few comfort items, like your pet’s bed or favorite toy to keep them comfortable. If your pet is easily stressed or is scared of storms/loud noises/busy places remember to bring any therapies (like a Thundershirt or calming sprays and treats) that might help them relax.

 

Sheltering in Place:
If you choose to stay in your home during a hurricane, there are some precautions to take with your pets. You will still want to collect the items noted in our packing list so that they are in one place and easy to find in case your situation should change quickly and you need to move to a shelter. Make sure food and paperwork are stored in water-proof containers. Ensure that pets are kept securely indoors (even if they normally stay outdoors). Pets can easily become frightened during bad weather and make every attempt to escape out of fear. If you are not in town during a hurricane emergency, make sure you have a designated caregiver for your pets. These caregivers should have the authority and access to either evacuate your pets or shelter in place with them. Preparing an emergency kit with all of the necessary supplies and information makes this easier for someone.Planning ahead for your pets is vital to keeping them safe. The ASPCA has additional preparedness tips online at www.ASPCA.org. It is also worth keeping the phone number for Animal Poison Control (1-888-426-4435) handy in case pets are exposed to animal chemicals or toxins after the storm has passed.