Every time a hurricane approaches landfall in the United States, I see headlines urging people to “not forget their pets” as they make their final preparations.
To me, that just sounds ridiculous, because who would ever “forget” their pets at a time like this? It would be like telling people, “Don’t forget your children.”
Yet, the fact remains: If you’re anywhere near the affected areas, please take special considerations as soon as possible when it comes to your pets.
The best thing you can do for you and your pet is to plan ahead, well before the hurricane makes landfall.
Hurricane Preparations: A Checklist for Pet Parents
If you live in the path of an approaching hurricane, here’s a quick rundown of the things you should be considering right now.
- Prepare an identification kit for your pet. Write down information about your pets, such as how many and what type are in the home; if they have any medical conditions; what your cellphone number is; and what your veterinarian’s phone number is. Include a photo of each pet if available. Also include vaccination records. Put everything in a large zippered baggie.
- If you evacuate, take your animals with you. Don’t forget to grab the ID baggie too. You’ll want to have that info. Shelters may need vaccination details in particular.
- Staying home? Figure out where you and the pets will be riding out the storm inside your home. An interior room with no windows is best. Remember that any home that isn’t safe for people isn’t safe for pets.
- Make a backup plan. If you’re staying in place in your home, at least go ahead now and prepare a list of shelters and pet-friendly hotels and their phone numbers, just in case.
- Get supplies. You need food and bottled water for yourself and your pets. Don’t forget things like pet meds, first aid kits, flashlights and batteries. For a complete list, see our previous article on emergency preparedness.
- Your dog or cat should be wearing a collar and up-to-date ID tags. Keep a leash or carrier handy.
Please don’t take warnings to evacuate lightly — and, again, your pets need to go with you.
“In any disaster, people should evacuate with their animals,” says Diana Guerrero, an animal disaster expert. “If a situation is unsafe for humans, it is unsafe for animals.”
If you do have to evacuate without your pets, plan ahead for their safety. “If you leave your pets behind, they may be lost, injured — or worse,” states the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready website.
The website suggests creating a buddy system: “Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your animals.”
And no matter what, never leave a pet chained outdoors during a natural disaster like this.
Again, preparing right now is key.
“Don’t wait until the last minute,” says Dick Green, disaster response director with the ASPCA, the animal protection group that has made it a priority to help people and animals in the path of disasters all over the country.
“Act now and tune in to your local news to monitor the hurricane’s path. And remember, please take your pets with you if you need to evacuate,” Green says.
Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA, agrees, telling Petful, “When it comes to protecting pets during disasters, owners are the true ‘first responders.’ The most effective acts of animal rescue can be taken even before an animal is in danger at all.”
Flooding Threat Covers Hundreds of Miles
Even if you’re many miles away from the hurricane’s direct path, this is not a time to rest easy. Keep updated on the storm’s progress.
Yes, storm surges close to the storm’s landfall are the No. 1 killer. But inland flooding — even hundreds of miles away — could still be a major threat for you.
“Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones,” according to the National Weather Service. “Widespread torrential rains associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.”
The ASPCA has put together a helpful page of resources around disaster preparedness and pets.