Evacuation Planning and Hurricane
Preparedness for Your Pet
Katrina has taught us many harsh lessons about the potential damage we may suffer from a direct hit by a furious hurricane. The sorrowful tales of pets lost and injured as a result of Katrina are horrifying. Although we can’t plan for every eventuality that may occur in a natural disaster, there is much we can do to prepare ourselves and protect our pets. Following Katrina, there are many more resources available for information and guidance. Several helpful web sites are listed at the end of this article. Much of this information was gleaned from media sources and public information sites.
If you need to evacuate….
If at all possible, take your pet with you when you evacuate. You may not be able to return to your home for days to weeks and this assures that you personally will be able to provide for your furry friend. Plan to go to a friend’s or relative’s home, making sure in advance you and your pets are welcome. An alternative might be pet-friendly hotels or motels outside the evacuation zone. Call ahead to make tentative reservations pending a storm evacuation. Check hotel policies on accepting pets and any restrictions regarding the size or species of animals allowed. See web sites at the end for resources on pet friendly lodging and travel.
If you have difficulty finding a place to house you and your pets together, make arrangements for your pets at a veterinary office or boarding facility near your home, but be sure it is outside the evacuation zone. Ideally, the closer you can stay to your pet, the better. Should there be an extended evacuation and you are unable to bring them home it will be easier to visit your pet and reassure them.
Prepare a hurricane kit for your pet now and place everything that is not perishable in a waterproof container. Make a list of those things the you will need to add right before the evacuation so you don’t forget anything in the rush and confusion of an evacuation (see list below).
Be sure each pet is current on all vaccinations, and obtain copies of these records from your veterinarian’s office. Make sure your county license is also current and the tag securely attached to your pet’s collar. Put immunization records in a sealable plastic bag for safekeeping. Take an updated photo of your pet, and include the picture with the health records. Also, clearly write your pet’s name along with your name and contact information on the back of the photo.
Have your pet microchipped at your veterinarian’s office or a chipping clinic. This is the best permanent identification you can provide your pet. But don’t consider this a replacement for tags. It’s best to have both forms of identification.
Acquire a secure carrier, crate or collapsible pen roomy enough for your pet to comfortably stand up and turn around. Have one crate per pet as they can become irritable with each other in close confines and during periods of stress. In a severe storm, your pet may need to spend several hours at a time housed in a crate for safety. Pack leashes and collars, making sure ID tags are secure and the information is readable. You can have personalized tags made on the spot by vending machines at many Wal-Mart and PetsMart stores. Include cell phone numbers since you may not be able to return home right away.
Store a sufficient supply of food and potable water to last at least two weeks for each pet. Keep food and at least a two week supply of critical medications in watertight containers and place them in a cool, dark, dry place for storage. At the end of the hurricane season, use the medications from this supply and refresh them next season so you don?t find yourself with expired medications in the future.
Storm Safety At Home….
Even if you do not have to evacuate, you need to prepare for the chaos that can follow a natural disaster. There may not be electricity or drinkable tap water, the roads may be damaged and unusable, grocery stores may be closed or depleted of supplies.
Have a minimum of a two week supply of food and drinking water available per pet, and again, at least a two week supply of critical medications.
Provide the animal a secure environment, such as a crate or kennel in a safe, quiet part of the house. Pets become stressed easily during trying times and will appreciate a private area similar to a den.
Keep collars with current identification on pets at all times. During and after a storm, always accompany your pet when it goes outside to relieve itself. Normal landmarks and scent trails may be altered, causing the pet confusion and anxiety. Be aware that reptiles may be displaced during storms, so check outside for snakes, alligators etc. before letting your pet outside. Also check for downed power lines and for damaged fences that might permit an unexpected escape.
Horses And Livestock
The safest place for large animals to weather a storm is in a large pasture, preferably one without overhead power lines and tall trees. Do not leave horses in a barn if there is a pasture available. Remove any debris that might become airborne and check to make sure all the fence boards are secure or nail any that are loose. If possible, use a pasture fenced in woven wire rather than barbed wire or board fencing. Make sure any horses or livestock have some form of identification. As with the dog tags, you can have flat customized tags made that can be put on the side of leather and nylon halters or you may hang a dog style tag with an S hook. If you do not have access to a large, clean pasture, there are evacuation parks set aside for horses. Space is very limited, so horse owners are encouraged to evacuate early to ensure availability. Ideally, all horse trailers should be off the road by the time winds reach 30 mph as they are high profile and dangerous in high winds. Pay close attention to weather advisories before transporting horses for this reason. As horses are especially sensitive to weather changes, you may want to get a tranquilizer from your veterinarian to give before loading to travel. The Sunshine State Horse Council has a database of evacuation sites at http://www.sshc.org/.
PET SURVIVAL KITPack these items in your pet survival kit (place ID labels on belongings):
- Collar with tags and sturdy leash (for dogs)
- Harness with tags and leash (for cats, ferrets & rabbits)
- Vaccination history; copy of county license and medical record if health problems
- Medications with legible instructions (two week supply or more)
- Current photo of pet with your name and contact information on the back
- First-aid kit (available at most pet-supply centers or you can make your own)
- Carrier or crate for transportation (one per pet)
- Food in an airtight container (two week supply or more)
- Potable water (two week supply or more)
- Manual can opener (if you feed canned food)
- Sturdy plastic bowls for serving food and water
- Plastic, sealable bags for treats, medical records, etc. Freezer type are the strongest.
- Cat litter, liners and pan
- Plastic trash bags for waste
- Newspapers and paper towels for cleanup
- Brushes for grooming
- Toys, bedding and special comfort items
- Muzzle (if your pet becomes snappy when afraid)
- Flea control products (if you are leaving home)
Pinellas County Emergency Management: (727) 464-3800
Southwest Florida Water Management District (for flood plain information) 1-800-423-1476
Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (for storm-surge maps)
Hillsborough County Emergency Management: (813) 272-6900
Note: These shelters are not for pet evacuations
Humane Society of Pinellas: (727) 797-7722
Pinellas County Animal Services: (727) 682-2600
SPCA Tampa Bay: (727) 586-3591 ww
Hillsborough County Animal Services: (813) 744-5660
Humane Society of Tampa Bay: (813) 876- 7138
Louisiana SPCA?s Disaster Planning
University of Florida Disaster Info
Lists of Pet Friendly Hotels/Motels:
Horse Evacuation Information:
Disaster planning brochures are also available online at: