It seems in Southwest Florida hurricane season is always here or just around the corner. We have learned a lot, mostly the hard way, since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 regarding the importance of disaster planning for animals, including our own pets. Suncoast Humane Society played a major role as the animal disaster command center, following Hurricane Charley, in 2004. Most states now include animals in their disaster planning.
Unlike many other forms of disasters such as flooding and tornados, we normally have the advantage of preparing for a specific time of year and also receiving somewhat of an advanced warning. This does not, however, mean we can wait until the last minute to prepare.
Hurricanes may last a few hours, however recovery can take weeks, even months. Your home may be without power, water or other services making it inhabitable. You must prepare in advance especially if you are forced to evacuate your home. Pet-friendly hotels, boarding kennels, relatives or friends out of the area are all possibilities, but must be thought about in advance.
Suncoast Humane Society and other humane societies and animal control shelters are not an option for boarding your pet during a disaster. They will already be inundated with homeless animals from the community. Sarasota and Charlotte County has designated a few pet friendly shelters, however, they too will fill rapidly, depending on the extent of damage. Again, you must prepare in advance.
If you chose not to evacuate, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, wearing identification. Keep pet food, water, and medical supplies in watertight containers.
Your pet’s disaster kit should include, food, water, medications, carrier, collar and leash and identification. There are many other important items such as up to date veterinary records, current photos of you with your pet, bedding, and even a description of your pet in case of separation.
Following the storm, animals may be very disoriented. Flooding, downed fences and power lines, will pose serious dangers to you and your pet. It is important to keep your pet as calm and secure as possible during this time. Do not allow them to roam loose.
Make sure your pet is micro-chipped. This is considered the most effective form of identification for your pet. A lost pet can be scanned and returned to you as long as your information is recorded and up to date. You may have your pet micro-chipped, for $25.00, at Suncoast Humane Society.