Monday, September 8, 2008

Pet Safety During Hurricanes

When Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana, it was the first time in history that pets have been a priority in an evacuation. In Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, animals hadn't been allowed on buses or rescue boats, forcing some people to choose between staying with their pets and hopping a ride to safety. Luckily, new procedures were in place to take care of pets and their owners after Hurricane Gustav.

After Hurricanes Gustav, Hannah and Ike have threatened the East Coast here in the United States, I thought it would be wise to go over how to keep your pets safe during a hurricane.

  • Acquire a pet carrier or cage for EACH dog, cat, bird or small animal. Make sure it is large enough for each pet to comfortabley stand up and turn around inside. Exceptions can be made to house more than one animal per carrier but DO NOT mix different animal species together. Frightened animals may exhibit behavior changes.
  • Take time to familiarize your pet(s) in the carrier or crate until it feels secure and comfortable in it.
  • Vaccinate your pet(s) by June 1. Consult your veterinarian for the neccessary vaccinations for each pet. Healthy pets have a greater chance of surviving the stresses of a storm. Infectious diseases can become a BIG threat following a disaster. Rabies exists in the wildlife and without proper precautions is fatal to people and animals.
  • Provide Identification! The better animals are identified, the greater the chances of reuniting them to their original rightful owners. Current license and rabies tags on a properly fitted collar, by micro-chipping or tattooing. Using more than one ID can improve the odds. Consider placing an ID tag with an out-of-state contact name & address along with your local information on its collar. Don't forget to place ID on the carriers!
  • Photos! Take clear, color photos (frontal, left and right sides) and store with your pets license, health records and ownership papers in a waterproof carrier to take with you.

Make Your Pet Emergency Kit

-Carrier or portable kennel for each pet.
-Pet(s) ownership, registration, photos, health papers
-A leash and properly fitted collars/harness to restrain each pet
-Non-spill food and water dishes
-Water in non-breakable containers, 14 day supply (double what your pets consumes on an average day)
-Food supply (14 day)and manual can opener
-Special medications, dosage and care instructions
-Grooming equipment and hygiene items
-Toys, blankets and special comfort itmes
-Cleanser and disinfectant to properly handle wastes
-Newspapers/litter, scooper, plastic bags for wastes
-Pet First Aid Kit


  • Bring your pet(s) indoors when a hurricane warning is declared. Reassure your pet(s) with a soothing manner and voice. Remember your pets can feel your stress and emotional state.
  • Do not leave a dog with a cat even if they are normally friendly with each other. The storm can alter animal behavior and instincts will override any training.
  • If you must evacuate, take your pet(s) and their emergency kits along with you. If it is unsafe for you to remain, it is unsafe for your pet(s) as well.
  • When a tropical storm is named, call ahead and make reservations at a motel/hotel located away from coastal and river areas. Ask the number of pets allowed and fees. Some motels/hotels will change their policies and accept pets in an emergency situation, but call ahead first.


Provide a Safe Environment! Clear an area free of debris. Use restraint measures to limit animals to "clean" areas and prevent injury to your animals (leashes, fencing). Spoiled foods need to be stored in durable plastic bags (eg. 4 mil plastic bags) or containers until trash pickup resumes. Bleach sprinkled over spoiled food can help reduce odors. Domestic and wild animals will be confused because of the loss of their territoral markers. They will be attracted to poorly disgarded food, potenially becoming a threat to family and pets or becoming ill themselves.

If your pet is hurt or lost, listen to emergency broadcasts for the ANIMAL HOTLINE. Special community Bulletin Boards for animal relief information will be posted, when possible, during times of severly limited communications in your area.

National Lost Pet Hotline: 1-900-535-1515

National Found Hotline: 1-800-755-8111

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