It’s hurricane season, which means it’s time for our friends in coastal regions and surrounding areas to review their emergency preparedness plans. If you’re in a storm-prone region, always keep an eye on weather forecasts, heed warnings from local officials, and evacuate if urged to do so. (Here’s a helpful resource for anyone in the path of an oncoming storm.)
For our fellow animal lovers, here are some additional tips to help keep cats, dogs, and other companion animals safe during hurricanes.
First, and most importantly: DO NOT leave animals behind! Remember, if it’s unsafe for you to stay in your home, it’s unsafe for your animals to stay, too — even if you think you’ll only be gone overnight. While you’re away, there could be property or electrical damage, power outages (which are especially hazardous in high temperatures), or unforeseen flooding or debris that could prevent you from returning for days or even weeks.
Create an emergency kit. This is a to-go bag or box containing everything your pet will need if you’re forced to evacuate or take shelter at a hotel or friend’s house. Here are some common items you’ll want to include in the kit:
- Extra food and water
- Food dishes
- Extra supplies of necessary medications
- Pet carrier, if applicable
- Recent printed photos of your animals
- Veterinary records with proof of vaccinations (some hotels and shelters require this)
- A familiar/beloved blanket or toy, to reduce stress
- A cooling body wrap, mat, or vest (if possible), to keep your pet from overheating if the power goes out during high temperatures
Make sure your animal’s ID tags are up to date (and include contact info). If your animal gets lost during or in the aftermath of the storm — which, sadly, is more common than we’d like to think — a collar with tag and a phone number will make it easier for good samaritans and rescue workers to help them find their way home.
Join or create a foster network. Foster networks are important during hurricanes for a variety of reasons. They offer temporary homes for pets whose guardians are facing evacuation obstacles prior to a hurricane (or who end up displaced after a hurricane). Fostering also frees up space in shelters, making room for local pets who go missing during storms. “We built foster networks in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy,” says Heather Cammisa, CEO of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey. “That’s an incredible way to help a pet family stay together, and we would want someone to do that for us if our home was destroyed.”
Finally: Do not hesitate to ask for help. If you’re unable to find an animal-friendly place to stay overnight, or are struggling to prepare yourself and your pets for a hurricane, reach out to your neighbors, coworkers, or to local groups on social media. Many of us at Team MUTTS have weathered catastrophic storms — Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irma, and more — and we’ve witnessed firsthand the way communities of animal lovers rally together in times of need.
That said, if you are in a position to offer a spare room, or even a section of a room big enough to fit a dog bed or a litter box, put the word out. You never know when or where a need will arise. You may even save a life.