Having lived on the coast of North Carolina for the past 20 years, Iíve seen my fair share of hurricanes. Whenever hurricane warnings go out, pet owners begin to scramble. Iíve compiled a list of items and actions you should take to make sure you are pet-prepared if a ďbad blowĒ should impact your home.
Use a pet carrier.
One of the most important pieces of equipment you can have during an evacuation or severe weather is a pet carrier. This is especially important when transporting small dogs and cats. Carriers are often required at many shelters and can serve as a safe space for a nervous pet. Be sure to label the carrier with your petís name, breed, sex, date of birth, your current address and contact numbers and any important medical information.
Make sure you have at least two weeks of your petís medications on hand.
Those of you that remember Hurricane Hugo back in 1989 recall that many homeowners werenít allowed to return for a week or more. In the unlikely event a severe hurricane strikes, make sure you have more than just a few daysí worth of your petís medications. Make sure you have 14 days of prescription medications, heartworm and flea preventives. Pack them in a bag with your petís essentials and write down your current administration schedule in case you must leave your pet at a kennel or other facility. Even if itís not time, I recommend applying heartworm and flea preventive prior to placing your pet in an evacuation facility. Your pet may be exposed to fleas and mosquitoes and the extra protection will only help.
Carry a weekís worth of food and water.
If possible, divide your petís meals into individual storage bins or bags. This will help ensure you bring enough food and assist others who may have to care for your pet during an evacuation. Carry bottled water (figure 24 ounces per day for a 20-pound dog and 8 ounces per day for a 10-pound cat) and bowls. Many shelters will not have adequate food and water for pets.
Bring at least two slip leashes.
I recommend you have the simple slip-type webbing or nylon leashes with you at all times. A frightened dog can slip out of a collar while a slip leash can hold them securely. A slip leash can also be used to restrain a cat in a pinch. Carry an extra leash in your pocket in case someone else needs it or you lose yours. I do.
Find out which evacuation shelters allow pets Ė before the storm.
Many pet owners complain they were turned away from evacuation shelters because they brought pets. Call your local and county officials and find out where you can take your pet before the storm hits. Your veterinarian or boarding facility may also take in pets during severe weather. Find out your options and make plans for your pet well in advance.
Bring a printed copy of your petís vaccine and pertinent medical history.
Contact your veterinarian a couple of dayís before a storm approaches to obtain any needed forms. This serves as a reminder to keep a medical folder for your pets that contains their latest physical exam reports, blood tests and proof of vaccines or licenses. If you wait until a hurricane is imminent, your veterinarian may not be able to provide you with these documents. If your pet has a medical condition, make sure you fully understand the diagnosis, most recent diagnostic test results, treatment and prognosis. In an emergency, quick access to this information can save your petís life.
Have identification and contact information on your pet and carrier.
Be sure your pet is wearing a secure collar with your current contact information, including cell phone numbers. If you donít have an ID tag, write your information in indelible ink on the collar and carrier. Hopefully your pet has a microchip. After major hurricanes, microchips are often the only means to positively identify lost pets. Thousands of pets were never reunited with their owners after Hurricane Andrew because owners could not positively identify their pets and prove ownership. If possible, include a contact not travelling with you in a safe area.
Take a photo of your pet before you leave your home.
A current photograph on a cell phone can be the difference between lost and found in the event you become separated during a storm.
Prepare for anxiety.
Hurricanes can last for many hours. Even the most storm-hardened pet can crack after numerous hours of howling wind, changes in barometric pressure and being confined in a carrier. You should carry anxiety wraps, calming herbal remedies and prescription medications if you suspect your pet needs it. Talk to your veterinarian a few days beforehand to stock up on aides for your petís anxiety.
Litter, piddle pads and trash bags.
I canít tell you how often even the most prepared pet owner forgets this one vital necessity. Bring a small baking pan and litter for cats, piddle pads, towels and trash bags for dogs Ė plenty of them.
Shampoo, brushes and towels.
If youíre evacuated, things can get messy. Be prepared by stashing a small bottle of shampoo and a brush in your petís emergency kit.
Pack plenty of patience.
As an experienced evacuee, I can tell you that nothing happens as quickly or smoothly as youíd like it to. Keep in mind that everyone is just as stressed nervous and worried as you are. Be courteous, understanding and helpful. Iíve had pet owners make unreasonable demands (imagine being asked if we had time to bathe and groom a pet during a Category 3 hurricane!), and be downright rude to the staff members that were taking time from their homes and families to care for pets during a crisis. If everyone remains calm, stays focused and slows down, everything will go that much more smoothly.
No one plans on a major storm disrupting their lives. What you can prepare for is how youíll respond when the hurricane watches and warnings are announced. Good luck, be safe, and may we all be organized and ready.