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Hurricane Preparedness with Pets

Aah, Florida in the summertime.

Heat, humidity, and hurricanes. We can’t really do anything about the first two (except spend most of our times indoors with the AC on full blast!) but we can at least prepare for the last one. Sometimes hurricanes are tracked for what seems like weeks before they make land contact while other times, they seemingly pop up overnight. Decisions like whether or not to hunker down or evacuate, where to go, and what to bring can all be made easier if you have a hurricane preparedness plan in place for you and your pet(s). Read below to find out easy steps you can take to help brave any storm that may come our way.

Before the Storm

Preferably, the below steps should be taken before any named storm is headed your way, but if you haven’t done them yet, no worries. Just take the time to do it now.

  1. Get current on vaccines. Most shelters, hotels, and other accommodations will require at the very least an up-to-date rabies vaccine, while some may require additional vaccinations such as bortadella, K9 flu and/or DAPP. Talk with your veterinarian about the appropriate vaccinations for your pet and make sure all shots are up to date in advance of hurricane season.
  2. Update your pet’s microchip. Contact your microchip company and make sure your contact information is up-to-date. Be sure to include a cell phone number as a home number will be useless if you have evacuated. If your pet is not currently microchipped, call a veterinarian. This procedure can be usually be done quickly and at a minimal cost to help ensure your pet’s safety.
  3. Copy your pet’s medical records. Have both paper and electronic copies of all current vaccinations, rabies tags, and other medical records. Seal paper copies in a waterproof storage such as a Ziploc bag or Tupperware container. Include a list of current medications.
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  5. Install Rescue Alert signs. Sheltering in place? It can be a good idea to put these rescue alert signs on your home windows. If damage occurs to your home, rescue providers will know to look for your pets.
  6. Make a list pet-friendly shelters. Hillsborough County typically operates up to 8 pet-friendly shelters. Know in advance where each is located and their pet policies. Due to limited capacity, bringing pets with you to a shelter should be used only as a last resort. Staying with friends or family or at a pet-friendly hotel is preferred and creates a less-stressful environment for your pet.
  7. Make a list of pet-friendly hotels. It is a common belief that in Florida, hotels and motels MUST allow pets during a hurricane. This is FALSE. However, many lodging establishments DO ease up on their pet restrictions and fees. Knowing a few pet-friendly hotels, and their policies, in advance will make evacuation planning easier. Never show up to a hotel expecting that they will take your pet – always call in advance.
  8. Pack a go-bag. Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Things to include in your pet’s go-bag include:
    1. Medications. Have at least a two-week supply of any medication that your pet is currently taking.
    2. Food and water. Keep at least a two-week supply of food and bottled water for your pet. Pack either collapsible or disposable bowls for easy, mess-free feeding. Food toppers can also be a good idea as dogs and cats sometimes refuse to eat when stressed and toppers can help entice them.
    3. Sanitation & Cleanliness. For dogs, include poop bags, paper towels and disinfectant spray (in case there are any indoor accidents). For cats, include litter boxes (disposable aluminum pans make great temporary litter boxes), litter, scoops, and trash bags. Disposable pet wipes and conditioning sprays can help keep your dog clean and smelling fresh when a bath isn’t an option.
    4. Don't forget rain gear!
      Don’t forget rain gear!
    5. Leash, collar, harness. Your dog will be required to be on a leash in most pet-friendly accommodations. You do not want your pet running around freely around possible debris. An extra set can be a good idea in case something goes missing or gets damaged.
    6. Pet Carrier. You want a crate large enough to for the dog or cat to turn around in comfortably. If you will be evacuating and travelling by car, a car carrier that can be strapped in with a seatbelt or a seatbelt/harness combo can help keep your dog safe and secure while on the road.
    7. Toys and chews. Bring your dog’s favorite toy as familiarity will help keep them calm. Healthy chews will help keep them occupied. Also consider calming supplements, such as CBD, to help keep your pet calm during this stressful time.
    8. Pet First-Aid Kit. Pre-assembled kits are available online or you can make your own.
  9. Take photos. Take current photos of each pet and store both locally on your phone and in a cloud-based format. Should you and your pet become separated, photos showing their current haircut, collar, and/or any identifying marks can help assist in rescue efforts.

DURING THE STORM

Rule #1: If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. If you have to evacuate, always TAKE YOUR PET with you. Grab their carrier and the go-bag, and follow your evacuation plans to get you and your pets out of danger as quickly and safely as possible. If sheltering-in-place, try to create a calm, quiet place for your pet to ride out the storm, but keep them within eyesight as much as possible to monitor signs of distress and to ensure no one accidentally escapes out of a door or window.

AFTER THE STORM

Wait until your local government officials have given the all-clear to return to your neighborhood. Do not let your pet roam free among any debris in your yard; it is very easy for them to get cut or scrapes from tree branches and other trash that may now be littered everywhere. Keep them on a leash at all times outside of the home. Do not let them drink from any contaminated or standing water. If your home in not habitable for any reason, find a friend or family member who can take your pet for a few days or bring them with you to a pet-friendly hotel until more permanent housing can be arranged.

Planning, preparation, and patience are the three keys to ensuring the safety and health of your pets during a hurricane. Please visit us at Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming Carrollwood for any food or supplies you may need in preparation for any storms. We are here to help you take care of your pets.