Hurricane Harvey just left a mess in Texas, the West is battling huge wildfires, and now Hurricane Irma is threatening Florida and the Southeast. As the largest storm every recorded in the Atlantic, and one that is potentially heading our way, Irma requires some special attention. Now is the time to ask, are you prepared to save your family and your pets during a disaster?
Having a disaster plan in place can help reduce the stress of evacuating or riding out a storm of this magnitude. First of all, you should always make sure that you and your family are taken care of first and foremost. As the governor of Florida tweeted, “We can rebuild your home, but we can’t rebuild your life.” Once you have you plan in place to protect your own life, it’s time to have a plan for your pets.
The three items you need to plan to provide for your pets are food, water and shelter. If you are planning to stay, make sure you have alternate, reliable sources for fresh water since utilities may be disrupted for days or weeks at a time. It’s also essential to have adequate food stores on hand since grocery stores and veterinary offices in the wake of storms may be closed for extended periods of time (or may not receive deliveries). So before disaster strikes, buy and store jugs of water and pet food.
If you are planning on evacuating, you need to have a plan in place for shelter. Some hotels are pet friendly, though many others are not. A good way to find pet-friendly hotels is to search petfriendlytravel.com or, for Irma specifically, find pet-friendly shelters here. Staying with family or friends is ideal, as they often won’t mind your critters tagging along. If you are staying in a shelter or with friends, though, you’ll likely need a kennel for your pets to stay and/or sleep in, so have one on hand that is the right size and be sure to pack it when you leave. Unfortunately, many emergency shelters will not accept pets. So if you need a place to stay during evacuation, make sure you research ahead of time and call boarding facilities and clinics along your evacuation route to make reservations in advance for your pets.
Before disaster strikes, have a Pet Evacuation Kit ready to go with food, water, a leash, important documents about your pets’ medical care or needs, and ample medications your pets may require. Any prescription medication refill requests need to be submitted 24-48 hours prior to your planned evacuation day. Do not wait until the day of departure to request refills.
Last but not least, if you cannot take your pets with you and have to leave them in place, please do not leave them caged or chained. Give them the best option to escape and save themselves should the need arise. In cases such as flash flooding, it is best to let them have the ability to make a swim for it than to be chained or caged in place.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has produced a helpful brochure, Saving the Whole Family Disaster Preparedness that we encourage all our families to read and follow.
As always, if you have any questions or need any advice on how to prepare please call our office and one of our staff will be glad to assist you.
Wm Glenn Adcock, DVM