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Weathering the Storm – Taking Care of Your Pets During a Hurricane

June is Pet Preparedness Month and it also marks the beginning of hurricane season—in the Atlantic, at least. In the Pacific, it starts even earlier: May 15th, to be exact. The season reaches its height, for both oceans, between August and October. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, it caused around $90 billion in damage and killed over 4,600 people.

But it wasn’t just people who were affected. Hundreds of animals of all types were left at shelters, and many more were abandoned in the streets, as people evacuated their homes. Organizations bringing help and support made efforts to get as many of the pets left behind as possible into no kill shelters, but the shelters were stretched far beyond their capacity to care or provide for these animals.

If you live in an area where hurricanes are a threat, proper preparation now may be the key to ensuring your pet’s safely during a storm and keeping them from being lost.

Before the Storm

With hurricane season upon us, it’s a good idea to have your pet microchipped if they are not already. A small chip injected under their skin, it contains all important information relating to them including contact info and any important medical considerations. You may even consider a smart collar with GPS tracking that may allow you to find your fur baby in case of separation.

Similar to how you would prepare an emergency kit for your family including things like non-perishable food, bottled water for drinking, cooking and cleaning supplies, spare batteries, and other essentials, preparing one in case of natural disasters for your pet is just as important.

A Pet emergency kit should include enough food and bottled water to last them about three days. Canned food keeps better than dry food, and will also help hydrate your pet better, so you need less water. You’ll also need a supply of any medications your pet may need. If a storm is forecasted, and the medicine is more than halfway gone, make arrangements for a refill as quickly as possible.

You’ll need to be prepared to deal with your pet’s waste, be it extra litter, or a supply of baggies and plastic gloves. Get a pet carrier for them if you don’t have one already. Prepare a spare collar with their name, address, and phone number on it. It’s a good idea to also keep some recent photos of your fur baby on hand in case of separation.

Everything you put together, from food to medicine to photos, should be stored in airtight and waterproof containers so they won’t be damaged by the storm. Finally, make these items as easily accessible as possible in an emergency evacuation situation.

During the Storm

Even if your pets normally stay outdoors exclusively, you’ll want to bring them inside before the hurricane hits. As the sound of thunder could scare them into finding a hiding spot, know where all of the small and hidden spaces are where they might retreat to and be prepared to search for them.

It’s important that your pets stay with you during the storm; so get them out of their hiding spots. This is also when the pet carrier can come in handy. It provides your fur baby with a safe and secure place to hide from the storm but still be near you.

Find the safest place in the house—somewhere enclosed and away from windows or other glass, where you and your pets can set up camp. Put a few of their favorite toys, bed or blanket, food and water dishes, and other familiar items in that area, to make it feel (and smell) more like home for them.

If you have to evacuate your home, do your best to bring your pets with you. See if you can find a friend to stay with who’s outside the evacuated area and can accommodate both you and your pets. If you have to go to an evacuation center, find out what their policies and restrictions are regarding pets: will your furry friends be as welcome as you? Will you have to take any special measures to secure them while you stay there?

Being proactive and planning for the worst may give you a head start before mandatory evacuation is announced. Check availability at pet-friendly hotels such as the Kimpton Hotels, pet hotels, kennels, dog boarding facilities outside of the storm affected areas in case of evacuation. Keep in mind that some places that may have policies against pets ordinarily will make special arrangements to allow them during emergencies. Be sure it’s somewhere you can reach safely under the current conditions. The longer you stay on the road, the more dangerous it is for both you and for your pets.

As a last resort, it may become necessary to leave your pets at an animal shelter until the hurricane is over. There are generally centers that will board your pet during a natural disaster. Make sure they’re wearing their collar with their name, address, and phone number on it. Be sure to have proof of ownership ready so that you can get them back once the storm is over. Though it is to be expected that these shelters will be overcrowded and understaffed so your fido may not get the best care due to the circumstances.

Despite that, the shelter could still be a much better option than leaving them at home during an evacuation. Even if your home is only partially destroyed, the possibility of losing your pet is still great.

After the Storm

Whichever option you go with to keep your pet safe during a natural disaster, it is a traumatic and scary experience for them. Give your fur baby lots of extra love and cuddles to help them recover from the ordeal.

Once they’re back home, you may still have to keep them indoors and under your supervision for a while, until you’ve determined that there’s no damage around the house that may pose a danger to them, such as broken glass, loose nails, etc. They may have sustained injuries during the storm so pay attention to their behavior to detect if they are in discomfort or pain in anyway. Make a vet appointment for a check up if you suspect anything to be abnormal.

But what if the unthinkable happens, and your pet actually manages to escape and run off during the hurricane? Don’t despair. All is not yet lost. It may still be possible to find them. Contact your local animal control office, Humane Society, veterinary clinics in the area, and any other organizations that are dedicated to rescuing and recovering lost pets during a storm. Report your missing pet to as many sources as you can think of and give them a description and photo of your pet.

Likewise, if you find someone else’s pet roaming around the area unattended after the storm, and they don’t have any direct contact info, alert those same organizations and let them know, so the other owner can recover their furry friend.

Your pets depend on you for their well-being and at no time is this more apparent than during a natural disaster. That’s why preparedness is essential. Making your preparations now and being proactive can very possibly mean life or death for your pet in an emergency situation. The more prepared you are, the better chance you’ll be able to take care of both you and your fur baby and provide each other with the love and comfort you both need during this difficult and frightening time.