Planning ahead is the key to keeping your pets safe if disaster strikes.

Without proper planning, pets are likely to get injured, lost, or worse.

Even if you decide to stay home, authorities may issue an evacuation order requiring you to leave at short notice.

Not all public shelters accept pets. It might be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in an emergency, so have a plan in place.

In Cayman, there are two pet-friendly shelters: one at John Gray High School and the other at Clifton Hunter High School.

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Pets, like people, are allocated space on a first-come, first-served basis. They are not allowed to roam free.

However, there is limited space, so it’s best to have a safe place for your pets to stay in the event of an emergency.

Here are some tips to plan for your pets in the event of a hurricane or emergency:

BEFORE

Rule number one: If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. Never leave a pet to fend for itself. You have no way of knowing how long you’ll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able – or allowed – to go back for your pets. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed.

Do not wait for a hurricane, tsunami, fire or other warning announcement to make arrangements – plan for any type of emergency. Identify a safe and secure place you can take your pet in the event of an evacuation. Find out if your workplace has a shelter and if pets are permitted access. Look for pet-friendly hotels or ask relatives or friends if they can house you and your pet for the duration of the emergency.

Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.

Assemble a pet supply kit, keeping any medication and enough food and water for five days in a watertight container.

DURING

If you have no choice but to wait it out at home, identify a safe area in your home to weather a storm. Keep dogs and cats separate, on leashes and in carriers. Even if they normally get along, an emergency can cause pets to act out of character.

If you decide to leave the island before a storm, the best thing to do is to evacuate your pets with you. Call the Department of Agriculture well in advance to find out the requirements for taking your animal out of the country and for bringing it back in. Also, be sure to find out the requirements of the country to which you want to take the pet.

If you plan to evacuate your pet to Europe it must have a microchip and have had a rabies vaccine at least three weeks before travel. The US and Canada don’t require this but if you want to bring your pets back into the Cayman Islands, they will require a microchip, rabies vaccination and a rabies titer blood test before they will be allowed on island.

And, if you have a pitbull, even if it was born in Cayman, it will not be allowed back if it leaves for any reason, as it’s a banned breed here.

AFTER

Although it may be a relief to get outdoors again after being cooped up inside, be careful and make sure to keep all pets on leashes. Downed power lines, contaminated water and decaying matter all pose potential dangers. Familiar landmarks such as fences may have been destroyed which can be disorientating, especially for dogs.

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