7 Safety Tips for Pet Owners During Hurricane Season
Let’s be real, if a situation is dangerous for you, it’s going to be dangerous for your pets too. This is especially true during hurricane season. Hurricanes, as well as floods, brushfires, tornadoes, or any other natural disasters, are frightening conditions to be caught in the middle of for both people and pets.
According to The Washington Post’s Karin Brulliard, “One 2006 poll found 44 percent of people who chose not to evacuate during Katrina did so because they did not want to abandon their pets.” We love our pets, and Katrina confirmed the need to protect them like family in a natural disaster. In fact, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act was created after that storm, which requires that response plans “account for the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals before, during and following a major disaster or emergency.”
So, rather than gliding over drowned yards and flooded cars trying to ferry your pets to safety, you (with some forethought and preparation) can make a storm easier and safer by following a few safety measures.
Here is a list of 7 tips that will ensure your pets have the best chance to stay safe in a serious storm.
1. Be Informed
Make sure you know what disasters could affect your area, and which ones call for an evacuation or to remain sheltered in place. Keeping a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to the local emergency station as well as monitoring TV, radio, and following mobile alerts and mobile warnings about severe weather in the area will keep your family ahead of the storm’s activity. You can also Download the FEMA app, which will send you weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.
2. Make a Plan for Your Pet
Simply put, you should plan a course of action and make sure you can initiate it at any moment’s notice. Having supplies set aside in an easily accessible place will make your evacuation quick and organized. Before the storm, check with veterinarians and kennels in safe zones to see whether they can board your pets. Keep in mind, most boarding facilities will require proof of current vaccinations. So, you should email those documents to the kennel and print them for easy access.
If you plan to board your pet in a safe zone, you should be prepared to take the pet’s leash, food and water bowls, clean-up bags, and any medication. Also, bring along pet’s collar with identification, a favorite towel or blanket and a two-week supply of water and food. Labeling your pet’s toys ahead of time is also a good idea.
Public shelters do not allow pets, so if an area is likely to be evacuated, you either need to make arrangements or find somewhere other than a shelter to stay. As you make plans for an evacuation route, first check which hotels along the way are pet-friendly. Bring Fido is a great source for finding these spots. Also, take into account where you will be leaving the pet and make extra time for the trip to get there. Finally, download the free ASPCA mobile app, where you can store crucial pet records needed for boarding pets at evacuation shelters.
3. Get Your Kit On
When gathering what you will take with you in an evacuation, make sure to also get what your pets will need. This should include about a week’s worth of food, bottled water, a can opener if the food is canned, a sturdy carrier, leash or harness, and litter and litter box for cats. Also, remember the medicine, and medical records for your pet should all be placed in waterproof containers. Bring an extra leash and a picture of your pet in case you get separated in the storm. Tags and/or microchipping will also make it easier to locate a pet if he or she gets lost.
4. Staying In
If you are staying home to ride out the storm, keep your pet in an enclosed space or on a leash so that the animal feels safe and calm. A bathroom is often an ideal place for this. Remember, you never know when you might be forced to evacuate. So, knowing your pet’s favorite hiding spot is important; you don’t want to be tracking down a terrified pet during the chaos. Therefore, it’s smart to secure all pets before the storm hits.
5. Stay Calm
Remember, pets can sense storms days before any radar can pick them up, so they may be a bit stressed already without anybody noticing. Keeping calm is key! So, whether you leave early, choose to stay, or are required to evacuate due to the storm’s severity or house damage, try to stay calm. Pets can sense our emotions, so a calming demeanor can ensure a less-panicked pet. Oh, and make sure to speak to your pets in a soothing voice too.
6. Manage Pet Anxiety
Anxiety alters pet behavior. Some dogs will sit and not budge when it comes to going outside towards a storm. They can sense the severe weather and it’s hard for them to go outside their comfort zone.
Animals also do not like change in general as they are, after all, creatures of habit. Going to a shelter can be very stressful for pets, so if you take your pet in a carrier, include items with family scents such as a piece of clothing with your smell or a blanket. It will make your pet feel a bit more relaxed to have their owner’s scent near them.
After the storm, keep the pets secured inside, on a leash or inside a fenced yard. Familiar landmarks and scents could change during a storm, and pets can easily feel lost if they wander off.
Sometimes the trauma of the storm can linger in the behavior of pets. Normally placid, friendly dogs can become aggressive or defensive. That said, keep a close eye on your pet’s behavior and implement as normal of a routine as possible once the storm passes.
7. Navigating Worst Case Scenarios
In a worst-case scenario, you might get trapped in your home if unexpected flash flooding occurs. Make sure to have a rope and an ax onhand in case you need to create an opening to get to safety. Also, you should keep a flashlight, a small bag with a first-aid kit and medications, and your ID and keys all in one place (and nearby), so if you lose power you will know where everything is.
And what happens in the off-chance that you are separated from your pets during an evacuation or rescue efforts? First and foremost, contact the animal control agency in the area you last saw your pet. There are several websites that also have information on animals rescued during the Hurricanes. You can find an updated list of these sites at Find My Lost Pet. Try different search terms, as animals are sometimes labeled by different breeds then what owners have on paperwork.
The ultimate goal is to keep your pets calm, protected and sheltered while the storm runs its course. With a little planning, you can ensure that your family and your furry friends remain together and unharmed this hurricane season.
Download this infographic and share it on social media to help others keep their pets safe.