In the week leading up to Hurricane Irma’s landfall on the Florida coast, state officials were urging residents to solidify their emergency evacuation plans, not only for themselves, but for pet safety, as well.
Pet safety is sometimes forgotten in the chaos of a disaster, but by preparing well in advance, the threat to their lives can be mitigated.
#1 Find Pet-Friendly Accommodations
Every family should have a plan in place in case of an emergency that also includes their pets. Planning to stay with friends in the event of a hurricane? Make sure they can accommodate your four-legged family members as well. Opting for a hotel to wait out flood waters? Find out which ones in your planned area will accept pets. Hoping to utilize a shelter if the situation arises? Be aware which allow pets and what is required for them.
To find pet-friendly travel lodging, visit PetFriendlyTravel.com which offers a search function by location to find hotels that accept pets, as well as a state-by-state list of available evacuation shelters for pet safety during emergencies.
#2 Microchip and Collar Your Pets
Even the best laid plans can sometimes come undone, and if that happens, you want to be sure you have a way to reunite with your pet. Microchipping consists of a small, scannable chip placed under the skin of your animal that allows shelters to access your contact information in the event you are separated from your pet.
By collaring your pet with a tag that includes your phone number, you may be able to retrieve your pet sooner than waiting for them to be taken to a shelter and scanned, if they are rescued by another resident.
#3 Have a Backup Plan
If disaster strikes or evacuation orders are issued when you’re away from your home, have a plan in place with a trusted neighbor who will look after your animals until you can return for them. Choose someone your animals trust, particularly since emergency situations put stress on pets, just as they do humans, you want them to feel as secure as possible in your absence.
If you know you won’t be able to look after your animals during an evacuation, plan ahead for them to stay somewhere they will be safe. Contact your local veterinary clinic or kennel for boarding opportunities and to find other options.
#4 Gather Emergency Pet Supplies
Just as with other members of your families, make sure you have enough food and water for your pets when hunkering down during a storm in case the weather renders travel impossible. Canned food will stay safe from water and other contaminants better than dry, and you should have bottled water specifically for your animals’ hydration.
Your supplies should also include any medications or treats your pet is used to, as well as toys or lovies that will help keep them calm and distracted during an emergency, as pet safety includes emotional health.
#5 Calm Their Anxiety After a Storm
The aftermath of a storm can change the familiar smells your animal is used to, and make them paranoid about their surroundings, along with any damage sustained to their home. Because of this, they may act strange, or become stressed, even after the danger has passed. Be aware of their behavior and do what you can to reassure them.
#6 Do Not Abandon Your Pet Before, During or After an Emergency
As authorities combed the streets of Florida before the destructive Hurricane Irma hit, they found many dogs tied to trees or left in pens, which would ultimately prevent the dogs from escaping flood waters or hurricane winds once they began.
Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg said they would prosecute any individual who deliberately prevented their animal from surviving.
This is a prime example of animal cruelty,” Aronberg said. “We will find you, and we will prosecute you.”
If extenuating circumstances prevent you from properly caring for your pet during an emergency, seek out pet safety options like shelters or rescues that can house them during the storm, and then adopt them out in the aftermath. Hundreds of dogs were adopted out across the country after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.