Pets are not permitted in public hurricane shelters in Cayman and no provisions are being made for them by the National Hurricane Committee for this hurricane season.
The NHC is aware that animals need some protection in the event of hurricanes, said Chairman Donovan Ebanks, but protection of humans is paramount for the moment.
‘We’re still trying to concentrate on the protection of humans,’ he said.
Mr. Ebanks suggested that if any good initiatives that strive to protect animals in hurricanes are forthcoming from the private sector, then the committee will seek to support them.
Mr. Ebanks added that the NHC is encouraging those who own pets to make their own arrangements for their animals’ safety.
‘There’s nothing directly the NHC is doing other than giving advice to pet owners,’ he said.
When asked if in coming hurricane seasons provisions could be put in place to help ensure more safety for pets Mr. Ebanks answered, ‘Of course’.
He said, ‘We will continue to be cognisant of the plight of animals.’
For the moment, however, the NHC is attempting to grow shelter space for humans over the coming years. On Grand Cayman for this season there are just over 4,000 spaces. ‘Sheltering the human population is our priority now,’ he stressed.
However, in Cayman Brac there have been some recent developments in potential pet hurricane safety. The Cayman Brac Humane Society has been given a piece of land by the Department of Agriculture on which to place a special shelter for pets, along with a generator.
In Grand Cayman animal welfare activist Billy Adam recently sent a letter to Mr. Ebanks requesting Government to include the welfare of animals in their revised national disaster plans.
In this letter Mr. Adam suggested having a representative from the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and the CI Humane Society appointed to the National Hurricane Committee to represent the interests of animals in disaster planning.
Mr. Adam said that a reality needs to be addressed – the fact that some people choose not to evacuate because they do not want to abandon their animals.
President of the Cayman Islands Humane Society Giuseppe Gatta says the Humane Society has also made it known to the NHC that people in Cayman have endangered their own lives to stay with their pets in case of hurricanes.
He admitted that putting such a public shelter facility in place for pets would be a big undertaking for the Government and there could be logistical problems with it, but it is necessary.
This season, like last year, the Humane Society animals will, in the event of a storm, be housed upstairs in the shelter so as to avoid risk of flooding.
Each will have a crate big enough to turn around in and they will be housed in the Book Loft. Manager of the Humane Society Sugar Evans lives next door in the same building and can take care of the animals after the storm.
Mr. Gatta urges pet owners not to leave animals tied up outside in a storm. They could strangle or get injured or killed by flying debris.
Provide plenty of water for them, he advises. ‘An animal can go for two or three days without eating, but needs plenty of water. Feed them lots before the storm,’ he said.
Even if someone does not like a pet in the house, there are other options, like putting them out of harm’s way in the garage or laundry room, he says.
Meanwhile the Cayman Islands Humane Society is desperately looking for three acres of land on which to build a new animal shelter. Their current shelter is ‘bursting at the seams’ Mr. Gatta says, and is prone to flooding.
It does not matter where the land is, he said, they just need to build the new shelter as soon as possible.
Landowners interested can call the Humane Society on 949-1461.
Pets are the responsibility of their owners during hurricane season.