Hurricane Preparedness – Remember Fido and Felix
By Phil Snyder, Executive Director Suncoast Humane Society
Living in Southwest Florida, we know it is hurricane season. We are constantly reminded, and rightfully so, that we should have a plan for our families. What is sometimes left out of these reminders is the need to also plan for our four-legged family members.
Like ours, the plan for your pet(s) should include a disaster kit checklist. Each checklist should contain any medications, medical records, leashes, harnesses and carriers for transporting your pet. Also remember to pack a current photo of you and your pets, along with their descriptions, in case you become separated. Include several days’ worth supply of food and water, and don’t forget a manual can opener. Stock up on non-perishable items well ahead of time. Having your pet’s own bed and toys, along with grooming tools, can relieve stress.
If you plan to leave the area, remember to find a safe place ahead of time that will accept you and your pets. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your homework. If you will be staying with friends or relatives, contact them far in advance to ensure they are prepared for your arrival. If you plan to check into a hotel, research their pet acceptance policies. Ask if they vary during a disaster. Call as early as possible for a reservation, as other prepared pet owners may be doing the same.
If you plan to “ride out the storm” at a local shelter, contact your local Red Cross chapter or County Emergency Management to obtain a list of pet-friendly shelters in your area. These are shelters that allow people and their pets at the same location. It was recently announced that all shelters in Sarasota County are now pet-friendly. Contact Charlotte County Emergency Management for their list of approved shelters.
We learn from experience, so if you have any doubt as to the seriousness of NOT planning for your pet, here are some reminders. Last year there was Hurricane Matthew, which effected many people and animals along its path. Before Hurricane Matthew, there was the devastation in Florida left by Hurricane Irma.
- Dozens of pets in Palm County Florida were abandoned and left behind
- Thousands of people were abandoned in the Caribbean
- Hundreds of people had to be airlifted to safety in the U.S.
- Many others were not that lucky
Authorities in Palm County were so disturbed by the number of pets that were left behind, that they strongly considered charging the owners with abandonment. Knee jerk reaction? Maybe it was, but abandoning animals is animal cruelty. Also, emergency personnel’s time dealing with the needs of multiple animals in distress can interfere with efforts to save human lives.
It has been over a dozen years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, yet today animals are still suffering and people are feeling the effect. In addition to the tens of thousands of animals that died in the storm, thousands of pets were abandoned. Dogs have formed dangerous packs. They have increased in numbers through indiscriminant breeding and continue to roam deserted neighborhoods throughout the city. Severe public health and safety hazards have been created by the packs of dogs, and there’s been an increase in dog bites. These animals have become forgotten victims of a hurricane.
Disaster planning for all types of animals is important, including farm animals, zoo animals, and those at wildlife centers and animal sanctuaries. This is to assure their safety, but also because loose and frightened animals can block roadways or cause other problems during an emergency.
Since Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead Florida in 1992, cities, counties, states, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have all enacted animal disaster plans.
Suncoast Humane Society played a major role in animal rescue and relief following Hurricane Charley in 2004. We hope that our aging shelter will be ready to help when needed again. In times of disaster, all animal shelters will be filled to capacity with displaced animals. They do not have room to provide temporary boarding for your pet. Again, advanced planning for you and your pet is a must.
If you would like a copy of the brochure “You and Your Pet, Preparing for Disaster,” please contact Suncoast Humane Society at 941-484-7884, or view it by CLICKING HERE.
Wishing you and your pet(s) a safe hurricane season.