Hurricane Preparedness for Pets
Michael W. Stephan, DVM
Juno Beach Animal Hospital
Hurricane season is upon us again and undoubtedly you have given some thought to protecting your family when a storm threatens. Provisions for riding out the storm at home have been stored and evacuation routes and destinations have been plotted. Have you remembered to make plans for your family's pets? Did you know that, except for assistance dogs for the handicapped, Red Cross Shelters do not allow pets? Thousands of pets were lost by their owners during hurricane Andrew. Many of these pets survived the storm, but could not be identified and reunited with their families. As with the rest of your family, some advanced planning for your pets can assure their safety should a storm hit our area. The following is a list of things you can do to assure your pets survival and give you the best chance of being reunited with them after the storm.
IDENTIFICATION - All pets should have a collar with their rabies tag and an ID tag listing your name, address and phone number, securely attached. Tattoos can help you identify your pet if they are lost, but do little to help someone who finds your pet track you down. Microchips are the most secure, permanent identification you can provide for your pet. These small computer chips can be inserted under your pets skin by your veterinarian with a needle and syringe. Most humane societies and animal shelters have scanners that can decipher the information on the chip and identify you as their owner. A single chip will last the life of your pet and costs only $25 to $35.
VACCINATIONS - Keeping your pet current on their vaccinations will ensure their health if they have to be boarded, if they are picked up and placed in an animal shelter, or if they escape from home and are on their own for a while. Check with your veterinarian to be sure your pets vaccinations are current. Also keep a record of your pets most recent vaccinations in a safe, waterproof place.
MEDICATIONS - If your pet is on routine medications, be sure that you keep at least a two week supply of them on hand during hurricane season. Even if you do not need to evacuate, it may be a while before prescriptions can be refilled by your veterinarian or pharmacist. Animal medications, like human medicines are often in short supply for a while after a natural disaster.
FOOD AND WATER - Keep at least a week supply of your pets regular food on hand. If you must place your pet in a shelter, take their regular food and a supply of drinking water with them. The average dog and cat drinks about one pint of water for every 10 pounds of body weight each day. Bring a supply of cat litter for your cat, as well.
CRATES AND CARRIERS - If you have a crate or travel carrier for your pet be sure it is clean and in good repair. Veterinary clinics and animal shelters have a limited number of kennels available, but can often accommodate more pets if they come in their own crate. If you plan on evacuating, call ahead to the motel where you are planning to stay. If they have a no petpolicy, ask if they will waive it in an emergency and if your pet is crated.
MAKE RESERVATIONS - As soon as you know you are going to evacuate, call ahead to your veterinarian or boarding kennel and make a reservation for your pet. Remember that space is limited, and a reservation may help hold a spot for you.
If you must evacuate and leave your pet behind, never leave them outdoors. Provide shelter in the highest room in your house and arrange furniture so that they can get up onto a shelf or cabinet if the room floods. Fill a couple of large cooking pots with drinking water and leave them accessible Your pet will survive for days without food, but not without water.