The Founder’s Pen

~by Susi Pittman

September 15, 2014: Preparing Your Pet Family for the “Big Blow”

Hurricane preparedness saves more than human lives it also saves the lives of those other family members endowed with fur, feather or scale. The time to plan is now, before the hurricane danger is imminent.

It is important that your pet has a current identification and/or rabies license tag attached to a collar. Should you and your pet become separated, these identification tags will help insure a quick reunion. Many Wal-Mart stores contain a metal tag printing machine that allows you to print a pet identification tag for under $5.00.

You will also need to have a way to properly transport your pet, be it in a carrier or crate. These should be large enough to allow your pet to stand and turn around. If considering to shelter your pet, most shelters are operating over capacity and your pet may have to remain in its carrier for long periods. Whereas dogs can be walked, cats cannot, so your cat carrier should be large enough to contain a litter box.

If you are planning on sheltering your pet it is absolutely necessary that your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date as most boarding facilities will not accept your pet without them. Now is also the time to check with your local county emergency management office to verify if there will be a pet-friendly shelter in your area. Pet shelters fill up quickly on a first come, first serve basis. Call ahead of the storm and determine availability. Public shelters do not allow pets. However, the Red Cross does allow service animals for disabled persons.

Contact friends and relatives about the possibility of taking in your pet. Consider surveying boarding kennels or veterinarian clinics in different areas of your state to compile a list of those that would be a safe-haven for your pet during a hurricane. If you still cannot locate a shelter in your area, you will need to consider taking your pet with you.

Taking your pet with you also comes with its own measure of preparation. Animals sense the heightened anxiety that you feel as well as the change in the natural elements preceding the storm. Be prepared to handle your pet’s anxiety with as much calm as you can muster. Be reassuring as you go about your evacuation plan. If you do not have family or friends to stay with, it is certain you will be looking for a pet-friendly hotel. A great place to start looking is online at Pet Friendly.com where you can find pet welcoming hotels and motels. Be sure to check for restrictions on size and number. Many times a “no pet” policy or restrictions are waived in an emergency. Exotic pets like parrots, ferrets, reptiles and fish are more sensitive to environmental changes and should really be placed outside the threatened area.

A quick checklist as you prepare to evacuate is essential to a smooth transition in exiting your home. Bring along your pets collar and identification, medications and updated photos in the event your pet gets lost. To ease your pets anxiety also bring along a familiar toy, the pet’s bed or blanket. You should include plastic bags and scoopers, cat litter, bird seed and food bowls with at least a two-week supply of water and food and a MANUAL can-opener. The aftermath of a hurricane can leave an enormous amount of devastation and returning home may not be possible right away.

Horse and livestock owners are also encouraged to have an evacuation and shelter plan. It is a rule of thumb that trailing animals out of harms way should take place 72 hours before the hurricanes arrival, so not to jeopardize the possibility of getting caught in the approaching winds and risk injury to the animal in the trailer. A 1000 lb. horse should have 5 gallons of water and at least 20 lbs. of hay a day. It is best to take the time to acclimate your animal to the trailer it will be carried in to avoid having a frightened and unruly animal who could force you to leave it behind. You may need to rent a trailer or truck to haul your livestock. Take time now to reserve whatever you will be needing, chances of it being available when the hurricane danger is close is nil. Locating a facility out of harms way is very important. If you do not have friends or relatives to harbor you and your livestock, check with your local veterinarian for suggestions or even go to Craig’s List online to look for potential shelters.

A crucial time to monitor your pet is after the hurricane passes. Returning home is a time or re-orientation. Familiar scents and landmarks may be virtually changed and your pet may be confused with the new environment. It is a good idea to leash your dogs and keep cats inside. Power lines can be down and reptiles or debris could pose a threat. Allow your pets to become re-oriented to their surroundings.

Make your phone calls now to secure your pet evacuation plans. Pack a plastic storage container for safe keeping ahead of time and include your pet photos, leashes, immunization papers, food, paper, plastic and utensil items that will be necessary for each pet. Then you can grab and go when the time comes. If you do not need to evacuate you’ve lost nothing as all items can be used and you have certainly kept peace of mind.

Creating an evacuation plan now for your pet family members will give you the head start to success and survival that will keep all the family together in good times or bad. Take responsibility for making sure your pet is safe from danger. Don’t delay, prepare now.

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Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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