Summer has arrived, and with all the fun in the sun also comes a risk of hurricanes.
Not only do we worry for ourselves, but also for our family pets.
If the weather is not safe for us, it is not safe for our furry family members either.
Where can my pets and I go in the case of a hurricane evacuation?
Unfortunately, most emergency shelters do not allow pets, due to risk of people being allergic or bitten, and pets fighting and even lack of room or facilities. Check with your local emergency management officials to see if exceptions are made for service pets. It is recommended to research pet friendly hotels in neighboring counties and states that will be on your evacuation route. Make sure to ask if they have any breed or weight/size restrictions, and if so, if these are waived during an evacuation. Print this list and place it in your vehicle or with other important pet documents.
What types of supplies should I pack for my pet if we evacuate?
Have appropriate supplies that are easily accessible so you don’t have to rearrange things to get to them in an emergency. A carrier is a necessary item, for both cats and dogs. Go ahead and label it, ideally with something waterproof. Try to bring your pet’s bed, blanket, or toy so that there is something calming and familiar to them.
Having plastic or stainless steel food and water bowls, as well as enough food to last a week at minimum is advised. Dry food has advantages over canned food, such as not needing to keep food cool and tightly sealed, not worrying about having a can opener, etc. However canned food, as with canned goods for people, is obviously waterproof, and if you have multiple pets, there really won’t be leftovers to refrigerate.
Bottled water for you and your pets is also necessary. Be sure to take at least one gallon per pet per day when traveling or staying home. It is recommended to take some water with you, as hurricanes can be unpredictable and traffic can be bad. Therefore, you may need it in the car before reaching the hotel.
Pack current vaccine records with you and your pets’ rabies certificates, microchip numbers, recent photo, medication instructions, etc. If your pet is on medication that requires refrigeration, such as insulin, pack a cooler and contact local emergency organizations such as the Red Cross for ice. Place all-important documents in a waterproof container or bag.
Take additional leashes and collars and have them ready for when you take your pet in and out of the carrier. Try to do that in a safe, secure environment, especially when dealing with cats. If traveling far with your cat, the goal is to have a carrier big enough to fit a small litter box, bowls, and still have room for the cat to lie down.
Should I get my pet microchipped, just in case?
Yes! Living in Florida my entire life with pets, I strongly advise having your pet microchipped, regardless of if you are in an evacuation zone. Many pets can be displaced from their families during flooding or tornadoes. Whether traveling from an evacuation zone or staying in your home, pets can escape or lose their collar. A microchip will provide them some form of identification for people to locate you.
The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and goes underneath the skin between the shoulder blades. Veterinary clinics and shelters have scanners to read the number. Then we call the appropriate association to help locate your information so that we can reunite you and your pet.
Dr. Heather Manfredi, D.V.M., is a veterinarian at the Animal Hospital of Dunedin. She earned her B.S. from Florida State University and her DVM from the University of Florida. With roots in Pinellas, she returned to live and work in Dunedin after spending some time in Interlachen, Fla. and in Kansas City, Mo.