No Pet Left Behind
No Pet Left Behind
The images from Hurricane Katrina may not be as strong as when we first saw them, but lessons from this disaster are too important to be forgotten. Stories of pet owners like Thomas Reed living in his attic, with his dachshund Weezie, eating cans of Vienna Sausage and cheese snacks shocked pet lovers like me. Reed, a 69 year old retired civil engineer, was unable to evacuate his flooded suburban New Orleans neighborhood and had to survive without electricity, ice, and water. When rescuers paddled up to his house on the second day of the flood, they refused to take the 7 year old dachshund, and Reed would not leave without her. Thousands of survivors did not take orders from emergency workers to leave their pets behind. Although Thomas Reed and Weezie had a happy ending, they were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter crew that agreed to take the dog, many did not. Staying behind cost some people and animals their lives. It is absolutely necessary to have a plan in place to evacuate, if ordered, with your pets.
Do Not Leave Your Pets Behind
- Leaving your pet behind during a disaster can get your pet injured, lost, or killed. Leaving your dog outside on a chain is a death sentence.
- Even if you think you may be gone for only a short time, take your pets with you! You may not be able to get back home if authorities have shut down the area.
- Leave early, with your pets, before evacuations are mandatory. You may be told to leave your pet behind during a mandatory evacuation.
- Have a plan to evacuate with your pets.
Have up to date identification with cell phone number and the name and number of someone living outside the immediate area. You want to make sure that even if you are not home, someone will be able to take a call about a lost pet. Don’t forget to make plans for the humans in your family as well. Make sure your pet has a current rabies vaccination and the documentation to prove it. Microchips are also a good way to identify your pet if it is lost. Research the different microchip products and services to ensure you are getting the service you expect. For information on low cost vaccination clinics and microchip clinics, please visit the events page.
Find a Safe Place in Advance
Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area, only those not in an evacuation zone, to check pet policies. Make sure that you speak to the actual local manager, not the national reservation call center. You will want to ask about weight restrictions. Also see if they will be more flexible in the event of a disaster. Try searching the listings below to find accommodations.
Check with friends and relatives outside your immediate area, also those not in an evacuation zone, to see if they can shelter you and your pets, or even just your pets.
Research kennels and veterinarians to see if they can board your animals in an emergency.
We are very lucky to have a pet friendly shelter in Broward County. It should be used as a last resort, but it is a very safe alternative to staying in an evacuation zone.
Register on a Pet-Friendly Shelter
Space is limited to a first come first served basis for Broward County residents in an evacuation zone. Pre registration is strongly recommended.
The shelter is located at:
Millenium Middle School
5803 94th Avenue
Tamarac, FL 33321
To pre-register for the pet friendly shelter, you must bring with you the following items:
- Valid proof of residence in an evacuation zone such as an electric, water or cable bill. A driver’s license will not be sufficient proof.
- Valid proof of rabies vaccination and license tag for your pets.
- The name, address and phone number of your veterinarian.
- A current photo of the pets you are planning to bring to the shelter.
- These photos will not be returned and will be attached to your registration.
Criteria to be allowed into the shelter are:
- Pet owners must be able to provide proof that they live in an evacuation area (utility bill).
- Pets must be up-to-date on rabies vaccination and licensing.
- Pets must be crated and will be housed in the same area as other pets.
- Pet owners must stay at the emergency shelter and by appointment only, provide care for their animals (i.e., walking, feeding, cleaning up after).
- Pet owners will not be allowed to sleep or stay in the room where their animals are housed.
Contact the Humane Society of Broward County at 954.989.3977, early during hurricane season to determine if any space is still available and register.
For more information about staying at the shelter, please click on the link below to view the Oh Behave newsletter article on my visit to the shelter on the night before Hurricane Wilma: Gimme Shelter
Prepare a Disaster Kit
You should buy supplies in advance that you may need during a hurricane. Keep these items handy so you can find them easily if you are required to evacuate.
- Medications, a first-aid kit, a pet first aid book, and medical records should be stored in a waterproof container. For information on what to have in your first aid kit, please view the Oh Behave newsletter article from the May 2005 issue. Making a Pet First Aid Kit.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers to transport pets safely. You also want to ensure that your pets don’t escape and become lost. A carrier should be large enough for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. Your pet may have to stay in the carrier for hours as you weather out the storm at a shelter. Be sure to have a secure cage with no loose objects inside it. These may require blankets or towels for bedding and warmth, and other special items.
- Current photos, proof of ownership, and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you become separated from your pet.
- Bowls, cat litter and litter box, a manual can opener, and enough food and water to feed each of your pets for at least three days, seven would be better. Stock up on nonperishables well ahead of time and add any perishable items at the last minute.
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to board your pets or place them in foster care.
- Pet beds and toys, if you can easily take them, to reduce stress.
- Newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and antibacterial wipe
Have a Plan If You Are Not Home
If a hurricane approaches and you are not home, it is important that your pet’s caregiver knows what to do. If your boarding facility is in an evacuation zone, make sure a friend or relative can take the pet to a safe area. If you are using a petsitter, discuss the possibility in advance.
If You Don't Live in an Evacuation Zone
If you plan to stay home with your family and pets, and you are not in an evacuation zone, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together.
- Dogs should be kept on leashes and cats in carriers, wearing identification.
- Keep medications, first aid kit, and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies.
- Don’t forget to make preparations for the humans in your family as well.
When a Hurricane is Forecast to Affect Your Area
Thanks to technology and the National Hurricane Center, hurricanes can be forecast and tracked in advance with some accuracy. You should have your kits ready when hurricane season begins. As a hurricane approaches, gather the remaining supplies you need. Waiting until the last minute is a waste of precious time that you will need to prepare your whole family. Don’t wait until the last minute to get ready. Warnings of hurricanes or other disasters may be issued hours, or even days, in advance.
- Call your emergency accommodations to confirm space.
- Bring your pets in the house and confine them. Be ready to leave with them quickly if necessary. Each pet and pet carrier should have up-to-date identification and contact information, including information about your temporary shelter location. Keep your pets confined if your doors or fence gates will be open while making preparations. You don’t want your dog or cat running away, right before a storm.
- Have your disaster supplies ready to go.
- If you evacuate, do not wait until it is mandatory. Mobile home residents should evacuate at the first sign of a disaster. Make sure you have identified your evacuation zone and the level of storm associated with your zone. Expect that a storm may increase in intensity before it arrives and prepare accordingly.
After the Storm
A good plan will help you get through the storm, but you must be use caution after the storm as well. Your environment will be much different after the storm whether you stay at home or evacuate to another location.
- Keep your pets on a leash outside. Fencing will be damaged, and there will be dangerous debris outside. If your dog does not recognize the new landscape left by the hurricane, your pet may be disoriented and get lost. Your dog’s behavior may change due to the storm events. Be careful when opening doors; a typically obedient dog may bolt out of the house and not come when called.
- For a few days, keep dogs on leashes indoors and keep cats in carriers inside the house. If you home sustained damage, your dog could find an escape route and become lost.
- Keep your dogs and cats separated. The anxiety may cause animals that normally get along to become aggressive.
- Disruption of your normal routine will affect your dog’s behavior. It is common for dogs to become aggressive, or very shy, or stop eating. Getting back to your normal routine will help tremendously. Your dog will be stressed and will sense your stress. If problems persist after you return to your normal routine, call your veterinarian and dog behaviorist.
Remember to Plan for the People
There are plenty of online resources to help you plan for hurricanes. Make sure all members of your family, including the very young and very old, are in your plan. Be sure to address any special needs your family members may have. The following is a list of links to help you be prepared! Some of these sites also have information for pet owners.
Other Helpful Information
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – Disaster Preparedness
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- Fearful Dogs: Every Day Should Be Cake, Icing, and Gravy
- Reactive Dog Training vs Proactive Dog Training
- Your Pet Dog and Animal Liability
- A Dog Trainer’s Simple Checklist for Solving Dog Behavior Issues
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