It's hurricane season, make plans now for your pets

June 5, 2012 

As you know, hurricane season is again upon us. We got a taste of what this season may bring by already having two named storms, even before the actual season began.

The only way to reduce the devastation of a hurricane, or any disaster, is to be prepared. When developing a plan, it must include your pets. Any disaster that threatens humans, threatens animals as well.

Plan now; identify your evacuation level to determine if and when you would have to evacuate. If you are located in a storm surge flood plain, the decision to evacuate will depend upon the category of the storm.

Always prepare for one category higher than the one being forecast as a hurricane often increases in strength just before making landfall. All mobile home residents must evacuate, regardless of location.

Make sure your pets have current vaccinations and take these records with you if you need to evacuate. Photograph your pets and include pictures with your records. Always make sure your pet is wearing tags for identification. See your veterinarian for your pet's license and consider having a microchip implanted. Both of these means of identifying your pet can best ensure both of you are reunified if you may be separated.

If you plan to go to a motel, determine in advance whether pets are welcome and what special rules may apply. Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and breed. Ask if "No Pet" policies could be waived in an emergency.

Keep a list of "pet friendly" places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information

and supplies. Check with your veterinarian to see if their clinic will accept your pet for boarding in an emergency.

All pets should have secure carriers, or collapsible cages. Carriers should be large enough for the pets to stand comfortably and turn around. Familiarize your pet with the carrier ahead of time. \The carrier will be a secure and comforting refuge if your pet is required to live in it for days or weeks after the storm.

Put together a portable pet disaster kit. You will need pet supplies whether you are away from home for a day or a week. Keep this kit in an accessible place, stored in sturdy, easy to handle containers such as plastic storage tubs with lids and duffle bags.

Your pet disaster kit should include medications and medical records, kept in a waterproof container such as a zippered plastic bag.

The medical records need to include a list of current vaccinations, including the current rabies vaccination certificate. Current vaccinations are a requirement if you end up staying in a pet friendly shelter.

A first aid kit should also be included. You will need your pet's leash or harness to be able to take your pet outdoors. Current photos of you and your pet should also be included in your kit.

Food and potable water are very important too and don't forget a water and food dish. Have enough pet supplies tolast three to five days. You will also need cat litter and litter pan if you have a cat.

Information about your pet should be kept in a notebook to include feeding schedules, medical conditions and the name and number of your veterinarian. Also, your pet may be more comfortable with their favorite toy and blanket.

If you must evacuate, leave early. An unnecessary trip is better than waiting too long to leave safely. A long-distance evacuation is not recommended because roads will be crowded. Local friends and relatives in a safe area are the best choice.

If you are not able to stay with your pet, make sure you arrange shelter for your pet with a veterinarian or kennel near your evacuation destination. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable together.

If you are able to keep your pet with you throughout the evacuation and storm, they will need reassurance from you. Keep calm and try to keep as close to your pet's normal routine as possible. Make sure you remain calm, speaking to your pet in a reassuring voice.

Don't wait; arrange for a safe place to stay with your pets. Review your plan and restock all disaster supplies. Often, warnings are issued hours or even days in advance. Make plans now so you are ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely.

As a last resort, if you must evacuate and have nowhere to go, watch and listen to the news for shelter openings. Familiarize yourself in advance of available shelters, making note of those that are pet friendly.

Our pets are important in our lives in more ways than we realize. In turn, they depend on us for their safety and well-being. The best way to protect you and your pet from the effects of a disaster is to have a plan.

It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your pets in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Don't wait until a disaster strikes to make your plan, it will be too late.

If you never have to look into the eyes of a dog or cat and make a choice, you are lucky. One day, we all would like to be lucky, too.

Adopt your new fuzzy and furry family member from Manatee County Animal Services today. Don't forget about our June adoption special. We are commemorating Adopt a Shelter Cat Month. Adoption fees are only $10 for cats and since we did not want to leave the dogsout, their adoption fee is only $60; the fee includes current license certificate/tag, health check, microchip, and current vaccinations.

For information on free and low cost spay and neuter programs, call our information line at 941-749-3067.

Check out Manatee County Animal Services on Facebook. Like us and share us with all your friends.

Our web site www.mymanatee.org/pets has a wealth of information, including your new family member for adoption.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Bradenton Herald.

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