As hurricane season once again rears it's ugly head, and people along the East Coast are preparing to evacuate before Hurricane Florence makes landfall, it's important to remember to include our pets in our emergency preparedness plans. Including our furry friends can be complicated, though, which is why it's important to make a hurricane evacuation plan for your pets now, so they don't get left behind or lost when disaster strikes.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website, ready.gov, you should absolutely not leave your pets home during an evacuation. Instead, FEMA recommends making a special hurricane evacuation plan for your pet to keep them safe during a weather emergency and ensure that they don't get lost, hurt, or worse, during a storm. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that this plan should include finding several options for places your pet can stay well in advance of a hurricane, creating an emergency kit for your pet that includes basic care items to last a few days, and identifying a neighbor or friends to help with your pet if you can't reach your home during an evacuation. These are basic steps that every pet owner can make now, regardless of weather or not they're being asked to evacuate, and can be tailored to fit the specific needs of your pet and/or pets.
According to Ready.gov, all pet owners who live in an area affected by hurricane season should make a special plan for where their pets will go go, and how they will get their pets to that predetermined destination, in case of evacuation. The same site notes that leaving your pets behind during a hurricane is not a safe option. At. All. The general rule to follow is as follows: "What’s good for you is good for your pet." In other words, if you need to evacuate for safety, your pets do, too.
Unfortunately, each year during hurricane season thousands of pets are abandoned, displaced, or lost, and usually as a result of their owners deciding to (or being forced to) leave them behind during evacuations, according to The Washington Post. And loving, well-intentioned pet owners who decide not to evacuate themselves during hurricanes, because they don't know where to take their pets and don't want to leave them behind, represent a shocking 44 percent of people who didn't evacuate during Hurricane Katrina. But again, what's good for you is what's good for your pet, which is why evacuating everyone as soon as possible is a vital part of any evacuation plan.
In order to keep your pets safe during a hurricane evacuation, the first thing you should do is arrange for a safe place for your pet to be before an evacuation is announced. According to the ASPCA, you can ask your veterinarian for boarding options, find a pet-friendly shelter, make a list of hotels outside of your immediate area that accept pets, make arrangements with family or friends to care for your pet during an evacuation, or all of the above, just in case your first choice doesn't work out.
If you can't find a place for your pet during evacuation, help is available. According to petfriendlytravel.com, each community's emergency management team is now required by federal law to have a plan that includes how to keep pets safe during weather emergencies. Their website has links to emergency shelters that take pets, organized by state, and information on how to find a pet-friendly hotel for your family during an evacuation.
The Suncoast Humane Society recommends that you make your pet hurricane evacuation plan now, instead of winging it in a potentially frantic moment. They note that while some emergency shelters allow pets, they can fill up rapidly and leave you with no place to go. They also recommend getting your pet microchipped and to keep photos of your pets in your purse or wallet to help you reunite with them if you are separated.
When you create an evacuation kit with necessities for your family, you shouldn't forget your pets either. The ASPCA recommends creating a special "evac-pack" for your pet and keeping it ready to go at all times. You can customize this kit for your pet, including basic items they will need while away from home, like enough food for three to seven days, bottled water, a disposal litter pan and litter, garbage bags, food dishes, and a leash and harness.
The ASPCA also recommends getting a rescue alert sticker for your front door to let rescue workers know you have pets and whether or not they remain in your home or have been evacuated. You can order a sticker for free from their website, or buy one from a local pet store, to help keep your pet safe and sound from the storms to come.