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How to Prepare Your Pet for a Hurricane: Disaster Plans and Pet Friendly Shelters

Updated on April 27, 2013
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Natural disasters are a part of modern existence. Some disasters, such as the meteor over Russia in February 2013, occur with little to no warning. Others are able to be monitored and predicted by science with a great degree of accuracy.

Hurricanes are usually seasonal natural weather events that strike hardest along coastal areas. Luckily, modern technology has made hurricanes easier to predict and gives those in its path a few days to plan and prepare.

Disaster Plan For Pets

When you are making a disaster plan for your family, consider the non-human family members as well. Having a plan in place for your pet during a catastrophe such as a hurricane is important.

Hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy not only caused devastation to the areas they hit, they also caused stress, harm and even death for beloved family pets.

For many people, especially the elderly or those that live alone, pets are their family. There are countless stories of pet owners trying to ride out recent storms with their pets due to a lack of options or places that were pet-friendly. Owners will often put themselves in danger in order to not abandon their pet.

Typically, rescue will only take human victims of hurricanes and floods, not their pets. This is why it is important to have a hurricane plan in place for your pet.

Local Shelter

According to FEMA it is important to take your pets with you when you evacuate an area. Some counties in your state may have designated shelters that allow pets. You should consult your local county’s website for the locations of the shelters and their requirements and restrictions. Most hurricane shelters require you to provide

  • Up to date vaccination papers

  • Food and water and medications for your pet

  • A leash, crate or restraint

A pet emergency kit is also a good idea.

Not all coastal counties have pet friendly emergency shelters. However, in the past few years, awareness of the need for hurricane plans to include pets has grown. If your county does not have a pet-friendly option, contact your local mayor or city council to express your concern.

Did You Know?

During the massive evacuation for Hurricane Floyd, evacuees from Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina traveled hundreds of miles in order to find a place to stay, some even going as far north as Tennessee and Kentucky in order to find a vacant hotel.

At the time it was the largest, peace time evacuation of its kind.

Travel Inland

The first thing you need to decide when you are leaving your home because of a hurricane is where you are going to go and what route you will take. If the evacuation zone is extensive of their is uncertainty about the hurricane's path, finding a place to stay may be difficult.

Once you have mapped your route, find out if there are any pet-friendly hotels or motels a safe distance away. Make a reservation before leaving your home to insure that there will be room when you get there.

Evacuating By Car

When traveling by car with your pet, make sure to have a leash or crate to secure her in the vehicle. Hurricane evacuation traffic is usually heavy so assume that it will take longer than usual to reach your destination. Plan stops and pet walking and bathroom breaks accordingly.

Stay With A Relative Or Friend

When evacuating from a hurricane with your pet, your best option may be to find a friend or relative who lives out of town or out of state and doesn't mind you bringing your pet. Your pet is more likely to have a place to exercise and sleep comfortably when you stay with someone.

If You Are Staying

It is important to heed the advice of officials during a hurricane evacuation. If you are not in a mandatory evacuation zone and decide to stay in your home, you'll need to take some extra steps to insure your pet's comfort and safety. You will need

  • Food and water for your family as well as your pet

  • Litter or bathroom supplies

  • Extra medications

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Other Considerations

If you choose to leave the area, remember that you will need to bring pet supplies similar to those that you would bring to the hurricane shelter.

You should also consider that you may not be able to return to the area you left for some time. If your pet needs special food or medicine, have your vet write a prescription before you leave. Thay way you can still get the items you need for your pet at a vet's office in the area you are staying.

Extra Litter

If your pet uses a litter box or shavings, buy extra. Also have buckets with lids or bags you can seal to dispose of the pet waste. This will cut down on odor and contamination since you may not be able to leave your house for several days and regular city services such as garbage pick up may be suspended.

Dog Needs

If you have a dog, there may be times when the dog will not be able to go outside for bathroom issues. The hurricane winds and rains may be too fierce and it may be too dangerous for you or your pet to go outside. You can try something like the potty patch to allow your pet to use the restroom inside. You could also put your pet in a room with hard floors--a bathroom or laundry room so that you can clean up his mess more easily.

Pet diapers may also be an option, especially for smaller animals. Think about your pet's personality and what you believe he will best be able to tolerate.

A Good Plan Reduces Stress

Remember that no matter what option you choose for your pet during a hurricane, she is likely to feel stressed and confused. Having a pet emergency plan is your best way to deal with this and other natural disasters.

Do you have a disaster plan in place for your pet?

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