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Keeping your pets safe during hurricane season

During Florida’s hurricane season, which typically lasts June-November each year, residents must be prepared to protect and care for themselves and their families, including pets. Storm severity varies throughout the season, sometimes causing power outages or even necessitating evacuation, so the best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared. Here are simple steps you can follow now to make sure you’re ready:

Step 1: Make a rescue alert sign
Write on a sheet of paper that you have pets in the home, then tape it inside your most visible window. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it near your front door), and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and phone number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the page.

Step 2: Arrange a safe haven
Arrange a safe haven for your pets if you must evacuate. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. It is vital to determine where you will bring your pets ahead of time:
• Prepare a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
• Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
• Identify pet-friendly hotels outside of your immediate area.
• Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.

Step 3: Choose designated caregivers
This step might take considerable time and thought. When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. They should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own — you might even swap responsibilities, depending upon who has accessibility.
When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. When selecting this “foster parent,” consider people who have met your pet and have successful cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so they understand the responsibility of caring for your pet.

Step 4: Prepare emergency supplies and traveling kits
If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you think you’ll be gone for only a day, assume that you might not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To make the process easier, make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information, including their name, your phone number and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to also write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
First Coast No More Homeless Pets recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. (We offer microchipping for just $15!) Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home in a crisis.
Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is, and that it clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in your evacuation kit:
• First aid supplies
• Plenty of pet food
• Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
• Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
• Extra collar or harness and an extra leash
• Veterinary records in a waterproof container with a any medicine your pet requires
• At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet
• A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
• Flashlight
• Blanket
• Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
• Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoopable litter, disposable litter trays (Aluminum roasting pans work great!)
• Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner

For download: Print this helpful checklist from the ASPCA and keep it handy with your emergency supplies!
More tips: The ASPCA has additional helpful information for keeping safe not only your cats and dogs, but also any other pets. Read more »