Hurricane pet safety: My five-point plan for a safe evac or ride-out
This has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Jennifer Coates, DVM on October 6, 2016
Here’s my five-point plan for pet safety during all evacuation-worthy storms, whether you choose to stay behind or head to higher ground. Make sure you check all these bullet points for anything might have missed (I know you guys are pros but you might not have thought of some of the little things):
- In the event that you and your pet are inadvertently separated, all pets should have a secure collar with a tag that includes your name and current emergency contact numbers. Tags must include information that allows a pet to be reunited with you should local mayhem ensue after a storm.
- Out of town emergency contacts (on the tag) are imperative! Remember, even tagged pets were euthanized after Katrina when owners could not be located using local tag information. So add another tag if you have to.
- Microchips are essential, too. This backup method helps ensure that pets with incomplete tags or lost collars find their way back to you. Use the microchip your area supports (regardless of your political feelings on the microchip thing).
- Keep a picture of you with your pets in easily retrievable spot like in your wallet on your phone.
- If you plan to evacuate you must take your pet. Anything less is unsafe, inhumane and potentially punishable by law.
- Make hotel plans in advance by keeping handy a list of animal friendly hotels in the area you choose to evacuate to.
- If a relative’s home is your destination, make sure family members understand that your pets will be coming, too.
- Think about your car and the space it needs to carry your whole family. Do you need two cars? A new car? A friend?
- Consider boarding your pet at your destination. Download a list of these places, too, so you can call ahead while driving or flying away.
- Evacuation shelters will usually accommodate pets in a separate, animal friendly space. Make sure you know where they are and what their requirements are before the advisories. Check out your local hurricane center for a list of shelters and their stipulations.
- Your vet and local kennels are seldom a safe option. After all, they’re in the path, too. Unless they have hurricane shelter infrastructure and storm staffing, you’re way better off keeping pets with you.
- Whether you hunker down at home or evacuate, you’ll need a crate. This ensures that your indoors remain controlled and your pets protected should Katrina-like conditions ensue.
- Crates are usually required before hotels and shelters will accept your pets—that means one crate for each pet.
- Train your pet to use a crate –it’s a soothing retreat for pets already acclimated to its homey charms.
- Crates need accessories to make them easy to cart along if need be. Get a handy luggage dolly and plenty of bungee cords to strap crates together, if necessary.
- You’ll need water for your pets, too. If you don’t want them to suffer all the ills you’ll avoid by drinking bottled water in the days after a big storm then stockpile extra water.
- Make sure you have food and medications to last a minimum of two weeks.
- If your pet suffers thunderstorm anxiety, imagine what a hurricane will do. Some pets are often best sedated, but consider that a hurricane is no time to be trying out a new drug regimen. Ask your vet for tips on sedative safety first—and always perform a dry run of any new drug or drug combination before an emergency hits.