With Tropical Storm Ernesto approaching, pet owners should consider when to put their pet plan into action. Without proper planning pets are likely to get injured, lost, or worse.
Your pet plan should take into account the following:
Have a safe place to take your pets: Shelters cannot accept pets. It might be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.
· Contact hotels to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. 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. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
· Ask friends, relatives, or others whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
· If you decide to leave the island before the storm, the best thing to do is to evacuate your pets with you. Contact the Department of Agriculture well in advance to make sure your pet complies with all re-import requirements
Assemble a portable pet disaster supply kit:
Like you, your pet will need essential supplies during and after the storm. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (duffle bags, covered trash containers, etc.).
Your pet disaster supplies kit should include:
· A first aid kit, including medications and medical records.
· Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers for transportation.
· Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
· Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
· Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
· Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.
What to do as the storm approaches:
At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet.
· Call to confirm hotel reservations or shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
· Check that your pet disaster kit is ready to take at a moment’s notice.
· Bring pets into the house to avoid searching for them if you have to leave.
· If you must leave your pet at home, prepare an area that is easily cleaned, such as a bathroom or utility room. Do not leave the animal near a window. Leave several days supply of dry food and water in non-spillable containers.
· Dogs and cats must wear securely fastened collars with up-to-date identification. Write down your contact details on temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pets’ ID tags, adding information with an indelible pen.
· If you are off-island when a storm approaches, ask a trusted neighbor or friend to take care of your pets. This person should be comfortable with them, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supply kit is kept, and have a key to your home.
· Animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Don’t leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. And, when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.
· Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have a photo for identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Do not let the birds out of the cage or carrier.
· Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.
· Horses and other livestock have a better chance of survival when turned out in clean pastures with native vegetation, but not in flood prone areas. Contact the Department of Agriculture for more information on sheltering farm animals.