When a disaster like Hurricane Irma looms, our first thoughts are often for the well-being of people. However, pets are even more vulnerable. They depend completely on us. The best thing you can do for your pets is simple: have a plan in place beforehand.
Have a “safe haven” figured out in advance. This could be a pet-friendly hotel or a friend or relative’s house in a safe location. When it comes to supplies, there are five key things to have ready.
The first is a week’s supply of dry and canned food plus at least a week’s supply of water. Don’t forget bowls to serve it in! Second, try to have at least a two week supply of any medications and a first aid kit including flea or tick prevention if appropriate.
Also, have paper towels, newspaper, and disinfectant. A cat will need litter, scoop, and litter box (a cardboard box and plastic bag will do in a pinch). Fourth, don’t forget documents: ownership, veterinary records, medication instructions, a photo of the pet (preferably with you), and an emergency contact list including the veterinarian. Fifth: label the crate or carrier with contact information and make sure your pet is wearing an ID tag (this is what gets people and their pets reunited).
There’s one more critical item that’s easy to forget: something to comfort your pet during a frightening time. Consider bringing a blanket or familiar bedding and favorite toys.
As it turns out, the safety of people and pets is closely linked. There are people who won’t evacuate if it would mean abandoning a pet. People have been known to return home before it’s safe if a pet was left behind. Losing a pet means a much greater risk of depression and PTSD. Emergency shelters generally don’t allow pets: their focus is on saving people and some evacuees are allergic or fearful of animals. But as the pet/people link becomes better understood, shelter policies may change. Learn more:
Remember: When you are evacuating, don’t leave your pet behind.