Have pets? Here’s how you can prepare for a hurricane

Planning for a disaster is key if you’re a pet owner

If you’re a pet parent, you already understand the joy and fun they add to your life. You’re also familiar with the added responsibility that having a pet requires.

If you live in an area where hurricanes pose a threat, planning can save you a lot of stress and time when a storm is moving toward your area.

Here’s some advice to help you plan for a hurricane with your pets in mind.

Identification is crucial

Make sure you have a way for your pet to be identified if you two get separated.

One way is to get ID tags made for your animal. These tags then attach to your animal’s collar. Just about any pet shop has a machine where you can make these yourself. The tag should include your pet’s name, plus your name, address, and phone number.

Another, more high-tech way to identify your pet is using a microchip. Basically, this is a tiny electronic tag that is inserted under your pet's skin. It will usually include your pet's name, plus your name, address, and phone number. In the event of separation, the chip can be scanned by a veterinarian or at an animal shelter. This might be the more preferred method during a disaster since collars can be removed. Your veterinarian or local animal shelter can provide you with more information about microchips.

Also, all those adorable photos you’re snapping with your pet can help identify them in the event of separation. It’s a good idea to take a couple of pics of your pet a day or two before the storm so that photo you are using is current.

Keep up with vaccinations

According to PetMD.com, your pet will be exposed to more harmful bacteria, viruses and wild animals in the event of a disaster. The best way to protect your furry friend from all of that is to keep them current on their vaccinations.

"Rabies, distemper and leptospirosis are some of the most concerning viruses in these situations," PetMD.com wrote on 2020.

Your veterinarian can help you develop a vaccination plan.

Build an emergency kit

Just like people need to have an emergency kit assembled, you’ll want to have an emergency kit for your pet.

Here’s what your pet’s kit should include, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine:

  • A week’s worth of food and water.
  • Medications.
  • Copies of vaccination and medical records.
  • Pet insurance information, if you have a policy.
  • Photos of you and your pet together.

The College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also recommends you pack an extra leash, collar and a pet first aid kit.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also suggests you pack toys, sanitation supplies (e.g. poop bags, puppy pads, cat litter and a box) and a pet bed.

Prepare to evacuate

If you must evacuate, bring your pets with you. However, that may not be as easy as it sounds.

According to the FDA, shelters are required to accept service animals as long as the animal meets the requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most shelters do not accept non-service animals.

"Contact your local emergency management agency for information about which emergency shelters allow pets," the FDA advises. "Try to call the shelter before you go, as some pet-friendly shelters may require advance notice. Your local humane society or veterinary hospital may also have information about where you can take your pets during an evacuation."

There are some hotels and motels that allow pets. They will likely fill up fast in the event of an evacuation, so tracking one down now is a good first step. There are lots of websites that can help you locate a pet-friendly lodger. The FDA recommends these:

For even more advice, check out the American Veterinary Medical Association’s disaster guide for pet owners. You can view it here.