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How to Keep Your Pets Safe in a Hurricane


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Published: 5/27/2021
As the climate changes and natural disasters become increasingly common, it's all the more important to stay prepared if you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes. 

While you might be focused on keeping your kids and home safe, it's also vital you care for your canines and felines. Pets are at significant risk during a hurricane, and not being adequately prepared could put your fur-baby at risk. Preparing Snoopy for this season's big storm? Here are a few ideas on how to keep your pets safe in a hurricane.

Keep up-to-date as the disaster unfolds

During hurricane season, you'll want to check with authorities regularly to ensure there are no incoming storms. Of course, you'll want to monitor local TV and radio stations to keep track of a storm's path.

One of the most valuable resources is the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) app, which partners with the National Weather Service to provide real-time updates on incoming storms, as well as tips to help you stay ahead of any hurricane. You can also locate emergency shelters and share notifications with loved ones.

Take your pets with you

The US Food and Drug Administration states that the number one piece of advice for pet parents during a hurricane is to bring your pet with you and do not leave them at home. If you are evacuating, ensure you bring all your pets, even if the hurricane is unlikely to damage your home. 

If, for some reason, you have to leave your pet behind, place "Pet Inside" stickers on your windows. These usually have space to write your contact info and how many pets are inside. These stickers give emergency services the opportunity to save your pets. 

If you do have to leave your pets behind, you should also leave several days' worth of food and water. You can also leave your toilet lid up in case they run out of fresh water. Coordinate with a nearby emergency contact who can check on and rescue your pets if necessary.

Microchip, vaccinate and protect your pets

During a severe hurricane, it can be easy to become separated from your family and pets. If you haven't done so already, it's essential you get your cat or dog vaccinated and microchipped. 

Not only will vaccines keep your pet safe in their day-to-day from deadly diseases like rabies, but it'll also stop them from picking up something during a natural disaster. If you get separated from your pet during a hurricane, a microchip will help you track down and identify your pet if their collar becomes lost. 

Additional medicines like flea and heartworm medications are also necessary. Following hurricanes, flooding is common, and the stagnant water left behind often becomes breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread heartworms. Your dog may also come in contact with other animals during an evacuation, increasing the likelihood of getting fleas.

Prepare pet emergency kit

You might have an emergency kit for humans, but many pet parents don't think to prepare one just for their fur-babies. A disaster kit for your pet may include:

  • Enough fresh water for a week

  • Non-perishable canned pet food

  • Food and water bowls

  • Proof of vaccinations

  • Comfort items (bedding, a favorite toy, etc.)

  • Cat litter and a portable tray

  • An extra collar with ID tags

  • A leash

  • A sturdy pet carrier

  • Poop bags

  • Puppy pads

  • Treats

  • A pet first aid kit

By preparing a kit, you'll be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Otherwise, you may be stuck packing a bag for your pet at the last minute, which may mean you forget something. A pet emergency kit will keep not only your pet safe but your family safer too. Need some extra advice on a disaster kit? Check ready.gov for an exhaustive list of essentials for your family.

Bring your pet inside and put them in a carrier

An obvious way to help keep your pet safe during a hurricane is to bring them inside, and if necessary, secure them inside a sturdy carrier. Even if you have an outdoor cat or dog, bring them inside, as leaving them outside in a hurricane could prove fatal. 

Any carrier you buy should have enough space for your dog to stand up, sit down, and turn around. Putting a cat or a dog in a crate for a long period can cause them lots of stress. Consider crate training your pet to make them more comfortable.

When picking a carrier, ensure it's made of a strong material, like thick plastic or metal. Avoid soft-sided carriers, as they don't provide much protection from the elements.

Work out an evacuation route and the nearest pet-friendly shelter

Most major towns and cities in the US have an emergency management agency for natural disasters, operated by the Department of Interior in conjunction with FEMA. If you're new to an area and unsure of the nearest shelter or the best evacuation route, contact your local agency to check.

Unfortunately, many shelters across the US don't allow regular pets inside. Most only allow service dogs as long as they meet the requirements stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

So, when contacting your local shelter, check if they allow pets, and if not, ask where you can shelter with your pet. You should also check with your vet or your local humane society, as they may be able to point you in the right direction.

Train your pets to swim

Severe hurricanes often bring flooding, so training your pets to swim will give them a fighting chance if they're stuck in a perilous situation. A common misconception (due in part to the doggy paddle) is that all dogs know how to swim naturally; however, this isn't the case. 

Teaching your dog to swim shouldn't be very difficult, and it's a fun skill for your dog to learn regardless. That being said, you'll probably have a bit more trouble training a water-phobic feline the same skill.

The aftermath

After a hurricane is over, only return once it's safe to do so. Check with local authorities and on the FEMA app to make sure. Once you return home, keep your dog on a leash while you assess any damage to your home. 

Debris and trash may have also washed up during any flooding, so you'll want to keep your dog under control, so they don't step on or eat anything dangerous. Hurricanes will also disrupt local wildlife, and you won't have your dog running off after a chipmunk while you check on your home.

Once things have settled down, take your pet to the vet to ensure they haven't contracted anything or injured themselves during the hurricane. They can also advise if your dog is showing any sign of trauma like anxiety or depression as a result of the hurricane.

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