The most important advice I can give any pet owner is this – take your pets with you if you evacuate. If you make room for anything, make room for the pet. Possessions aren’t important, their lives are. You can replace just about anything man-made, but you sure can’t replace them.
On most online prep sites, you will find suggestions on how to prepare your pets for a hurricane evacuation, or what to do if you are forced to leave them behind in your house. Many lists will have the same suggestions, just worded a little differently. I’m putting some of the most common suggestions here, along with some necessary added details.
Prepare an area for your pet to use inside the house, away from windows.
(Glass breaks during a hurricane. This includes windows, door glass, sidelights, patio doors, skylights. It’s not rocket science to figure out that flying/broken glass is dangerous. Panicked animals can also escape through a broken pane, risking further injury and exposure to the storm.)
Consider an easily cleaned utility room, garage, bathroom, or other tiled area.
(When any animal is frightened or stressed to the max, chances are it could throw up, pee everywhere or have diarrhea. If an animal is left alone in an enclosed space longer than 8 hours,it’s going to need to pee or poop, even if it isn’t scared. Hurricanes could keep an owner away for weeks. The incredible mess of animal sewage you’re going to find when you return home is a lot easier to clean up if it hasn’t soaked into a carpet. Sewage doesn’t sink into tile or concrete.)
Leave only dry type foods that are relatively unappealing to prevent overeating. Use sturdy food containers.
(The problem isn’t going to be overeating, its going to be starvation. If your area is hard hit and your property damaged, you’re not going to be allowed to return to the town if you’ve evacuated. The dry dog food you left out for your pet to eat may have been dissolved in dirty flood water for days. Sturdy food containers? Animals will panic when they hear hurricane force winds screaming around the house and run all over the place, knocking food containers of any sort, over. After the food is eaten off the floor at some point, they may get so hungry they start to eat the food bowl. This suggestion should read ‘use only uneatable metal bowls’.)
Do not leave any pet vitamins or mineral supplements, as overeating of these treats may cause poisoning.
(And for the most part, I agree. But again, starving isn’t beneficial, either).
If your pet is on a special diet use caution as to the amount of food you leave
(If your pet is going to die if it doesn’t have a certain food, medication, or whatever, my advice is this: don’t leave the pet in the house during a hurricane. Toss a box of clothes out of the car, or whatever and take the animal WITH YOU. You can always buy more clothes. You can’t replace the pet. Again, it’s not the overeating that’s going to be the problem most of the time, it’s starvation. The food will run out or be under water, or worse yet, be mixed in with urine and feces on the floor and then eaten by the pet. This is reality.)
Leave water for pets in a sturdy, no spill container or a bathtub. Leave toilet seats up.
(Again, it doesn’t matter how ‘sturdy’ a container is if a panicked animal has stepped in it, tried to bite it, whacked it with a paw, or simply drank all the water. Filling a bathtub is an option if you have a dog tall enough to stand there and drink over the edge, and then still be able to drink as the water gets lower. But what if you have a Dachsund or a Yorkie? What if you have an older dog that just can’t manage to figure it out? What if your sewers back up (which happens a lot) and all that nasty stuff comes bubbling right up through the pipes and into the tub? Drain stoppers aren’t that secure. Tubs could back up or slowly leak, and there goes that water source. As for toilet seats, again, animals jump around if they are panicky. Toilet seats can get knocked down, cutting that supply off in seconds. Littler dogs can leap inside, and there’s trouble right there.)
Birds must eat daily to survive. If you must leave them behind, use special food dispensers.
(Okay, I’ve never owned a bird. What special food dispensers would these be? Can you Can you possibly stock enough food and water for a bird to last a week, or two or three weeks? What about folks with those large birds, like parrots or cockatoos? And can domestic birds survive inside when the air conditioning blows out for weeks and the temps soar to 100?)
Confine small pets such as birds, hamsters, mice, etc, away from dogs and cats
(Bigger critters eat smaller critters when they are starving to death, this is Nature.)
Never leave a cat with a dog, even if they are normally friendly
(Again, law of Nature. If there are animals stranded together with no remaining food or water, sooner or later the bigger ones are going to get hungry enough to forget about friendship and attack and eat the smaller ones. Dogs will eat cats. Dogs will even eat smaller dogs. Really awful scenario, but its reality.)
Leave difficult or dangerous animals in special crates or cages.
(Shelters will generally refuse to take exotics or reptiles of any kind. They won’t care how small your snake is, how friendly your tarantula is, or how rare your savannah cat is. Not happening, so don’t even try. But again, how in the world can you leave an exotic mammal of any type in a crate or cage for several days, or as long as a week? This is just dangerous and it most likely will not survive.)
Provide pet access to high places, such as counter tops, in case your home floods
(How? Build a ramp and nail it to a counter top? A cat wouldn’t need a ramp, so do owners leave a litter box on the counter as well? What about smaller dogs that can’t leap that high, or can’t manage the ramp in their panic? How would a Lab, for instance, stay for an extended period of time on a counter top?
If the floor is under water, how then does the animal eat or drink? How can it hang out for days on a 26 inch wide surface? How will it sleep? Can you imagine my Irish Wolfhound trying to stay on a counter top? What if you own a Great Dane, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Mastiff?
What if you own several dogs and decide to leave them in the house, what happens then? Do they all fit on the counter top day after day after day?
A flooded home means one thing: your pets can easily drown. This suggestion, coupled with the previous tips which say ‘leave your exotic in a special cage’ or ‘secure pets in a tiled area such as a bathroom’, guarantees a gruesome death by drowning if your house floods.)
Do not leave any pet outside or tied up during a hurricane
(70 to 180 mph winds (or more) knock over trees, lift cars, and blow the roofs off buildings. Sheet metal and pieces of lumber get tossed around like they were tinker toys. Your animal is a lot less sturdy than a tree, a car, or a roof. It won’t survive being tied outside, and it won’t survive being whacked with pipes, lumber, or broken glass hurtling through the air, either. The scariest thing to me about this suggestion is that so many sites list it–meaning, there must have been people heartless or dumb enough to actually tie a pet outside during a hurricane. Livestock is a different story altogether, and unfortunately, no one is going to be able to secure cattle, sheep, goats, horses, or anything against possible injury and death during a disaster, unless they physically move them out of the disaster area.)
Bring your pets indoors well in advance of the storm. Reassure them with a soothing voice and calm manner.
(First, I don’t know what ‘well in advance’ means to the people who made this list. Two days? Three days? What difference will it make? Second, how calm do you think a dog or cat or anything is going to be once hurricane force winds are screaming outside and the power blows out, leaving them in darkness?
They aren’t going to remember your ‘soothing voice and calm manner’ after you walk out the door and leave them alone to face this disaster. They’re going to freak out and rightly so.)
Keep shots up-to-date and have a health certificate readily available in case you have to board the pet, leave the state, or try to enter emergency facilities which accept pets. Keep current ID and rabies tags on the animals collars at all times. Also be able to provide proof of ownership such as health certificate or photos in case you and your pet are separated during the disaster.
(No one I know has health certificates readily available on all their pets. Big commercial kennels or extremely organized pet owners might. But ordinary people like you or I usually don’t keep this sort of thing on hand. I drove my vets office for records on my Kuvasz and Irish Wolfhound 2 days before Hurricane Rita hit. About a zillion other pet owners had the same idea at the same time. When I finally got in the door, it was wall to wall cranky pet owners like me, all wanting shot records on pets.
As soon as any hurricane forms, go and get your pets shot records. I don’t care if you live in Tampa, Florida, and the hurricane is predicted to hit Galveston, Texas. You just never know. Get the records right now. Put them in a folder and put that folder in your Emergency Box.)
Prepare a kit with a weeks worth of emergency supplies available in case the disaster prevents you from getting necessary food and medications.
(I covered this subject back in Part Four. When prep sites use words like ‘kit’, it makes it sound so easy, as though you can just sling everything into a small backpack and be ready. If you have one small pet, maybe you could, but this will not work for multiple animals, or larger pets. It’d have to be a mighty big kit.)
Arrange to have your pet taken care of if you can’t take your pet with you. Find out about boarding kennels which may accept your pet on short notice. Talk to friends and relatives who live 100 to 300 miles away from you who might be able to take care of your pet for a few days to a few months.
(This is mentioned in Part Two, and really, this is nearly impossible to do. There will be no boarding kennels that have space for your pet if a hurricane is about to hit. Who usually takes care of the animals at these places? People like you, who want to get the heck out of town. Friends or relatives 100 miles away? That could be a three hour trip, each way, just to get your animal there and you back home, so you can pack your own stuff up and then flee the storm. 300 miles away…are they serious? Most of us work for a living, who is going to be able to arrange emergency time off to drive 300 miles away to stash the family pets? And then drive 300 miles back? That’s a lot of time and gas money. And that’s if you can find gas by then.)
Purchase pet carriers and have an extra leash handy. Pets will be under stress after a disaster and will need to be confined if you are to have any chance of gaining access to an emergency shelter.
(I covered this in Part Four, and it should read leash, harness and pet carrier and buy them like, yesterday. Please do not forget that most shelters do not allow the animal to remain with you. You’re also responsible for feeding, walking, and cleaning up any mess they make, so you need to have all those supplies with you, because I doubt the shelter can supply their needs.)
This was an actual excerpt from a news station in Florida several years ago, concerning registering pets with local shelters, in the event you needed to evacuate and stay at the shelter:
People and pets — you need to pre-register by calling (999) 999-9999(not the real number, obviously) for the necessary forms. All animals must have current vaccination, and medical records. You must pre-register. Space is extremely limited. To pre-register, you must bring the following with you in person to the Humane Society, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday:
Valid proof of residence in an evacuation area (including mobile home residents) such as an electric, water, or cable bill. Driver’s license is not sufficient proof. Valid proof of rabies vaccination and county animal license tag for your pets. Name, address, and phone number of your veterinarian. Current photo of pets you are planning to bring to the shelter. These photos must be attached to registration and will not be returned.
(Wow, that’s a whole lot of documentation to have to gather for one animal. Now imagine having to do it for multiple animals. And what if the hurricane veers after 5pm on a Friday, and head straight for your town and you can’t register because the office is closed? If you live in a coastal town, True Prep means a lot of paperwork, too, if you have to evacuate to a public shelter. Buy plastic folders and gather these forms now…find out what your town or city requires and have it ready. Call early….and hope they have space.)
In conclusion, if you live in a disaster prone area, you need to get your preparations in place now. June is fast approaching, and its easy to get sidetracked with family activities, vacations, and just the lazy, hazy, summer days. You’ve read my five articles (I know you read every word, yes?), and since you took the time to read the Hurricane Tales, I’m assuming love your pets like I do and want to keep them safe. So what are you waiting for? Go prep!