Every state or region deals with its own versions of inclement weather and natural disasters — whether it’s wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes or flash floods.
In Florida (and throughout much of the southern, coastal and tropical regions of the U.S.), it’s hurricane season, which began on June 1 and lasts through November.
The 2019 hurricane season continued the pattern of above-normal active seasons, and 2020 promises more of the same.
Unfortunately, many people in a rush to escape must leave pets behind, trapped in homes threatened by rising floodwaters or chained to telephone poles or fences.
For those who do take their animals with them, it’s a struggle to arrange last-minute travel or arrangements with shelters that will allow for pets.
Plus, last-minute care, boarding and supplies can be severely overpriced.
It’s important to have an action plan for when disaster strikes — and it should be one that involves your pets.
Prepare to Care for Your Pet During an Emergency
It’s a good idea to begin preparing to keep yourself, your family and your pets safe at the start of your area’s emergency season. These tips from PetsWelcome.com can help.
Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit
When you put your emergency kit together for yourself and your household, don’t forget to put an emergency kit together for your furry friends, too. You should have this kit handy whether you think you will evacuate your home or not.
Here’s what your pet emergency kit should include:
- A collar and ID tags with a name and contact information (if the animal doesn’t wear one regularly).
- The phone number and address for your vet and a vet emergency clinic in the area you’ll be staying.
- Medical tags and updated records (in a waterproof bag or sleeve).
- Medications (your vet may be able to give you an extra supply if your pet depends on the drugs to survive) and a pet first aid kit — here’s a checklist of what it should include.
- Current photos of your pet to help with identification if you become separated.
- A few copies of your pet’s feeding habits, notable behaviors, medication schedule and medical conditions, if applicable, in case the pet has to be boarded or placed in foster care suddenly.
- A small toy, pillow, blanket or bed that brings your pet comfort.
- Food and water bowls, plus extra food and treats. (And don’t forget a manual can opener, if necessary.)
- Plastic waste bags, paper towels, lightweight cat litter and a travel-size litter box. (And a small flashlight for late-night bathroom trips.)
- Dry shampoo, wipes, a towel and whatever else you may need for a quick refresher or cleanup.
- A leash, harness and travel crate that is comfortable even over long periods of time.
After you’ve packed your kit — including the first aid supplies — check it every few months to refresh items that have expired or need to be replaced.
Before Disaster Strikes
Before bad seasonal weather or disasters are expected in your area, there are some things you should do to ensure your pet will remain safe and well cared for.
Here’s what to do now, before a natural disaster arrives:
- If your pets are overdue for any shots, take them to the vet now so you’re not left scrambling to make an appointment while a storm approaches. An unvaccinated pet may not be allowed into shelters, hotels, boarding facilities or foster care.
- Contact hotels, motels and emergency shelters on your planned evacuation routes to ensure they accept pets. (Specify that you are seeking information on emergency evacuation situations, and they may be able to explain their “in case of emergency” procedures and allowances.) Make a list of the places that do.
- Make a list of any veterinarians or boarding facilities along your planned evacuation routes in case you are required to drop off your pets as you’re seeking shelter with your family.
- If your evacuation plan includes staying with family or friends in another region, contact them to ensure they are OK with your pets staying, too.
Take Care of Your Pets in Case of Emergency
If you have to leave your home, don’t leave your pets behind.
Pets who are left behind in emergency situations are often sent to homes in another state or area — or end up lost or dead.
If you are evacuating, don’t leave your pet locked in your home with extra bowls of food and water. You won’t be able to guarantee how long you will be gone, how severely the weather will affect your home or how your pet will react when left alone for so long under stressful conditions.
Do not leave a pet tied to a fence, light post or telephone pole or turn your pet loose to roam freely outside. Do not leave pets locked in a car, on a boat or otherwise stranded with no hope of escape. This is considered to be animal cruelty, and you may be fined or worse.
If you become separated from your pet for any reason, first contact the animal control agency in your area, then check with Find My Lost Pet for a list of websites that have information on animals rescued amid a natural disaster.
A pet is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility is keeping your animal pal protected during an emergency situation.
Just remember, preparation is the key to keeping yourself and those you love (humans and animals) safe.
Grace Schweizer is an email content writer at The Penny Hoarder.