By Phil Snyder, Executive Director of Suncoast Humane Society
Published in the Englewood Sun on May 31, 2015
Hurricane Season is upon us again. We already have one scare north of us, and there will be more storms brewing in the atlantic during the long season. There is a lot of important information available on having a plan and being prepared.
It can be found at hurricane expos, and on the radio, television and in newsprint. And, if you listen or look hard enough, you may learn some about the importance of having a plan for your pets. Pets are an important part of our families, and must be included in our disaster-preparedness process.
There are definitely steps you can take to be better prepared to care for our fuzzy friends in a disaster. When you are making your preparedness checklist, consider the following for your pets. Your pet's disaster kit should contain any medication(s), medical records, leashes, harnesses and carriers for transporting.
Include current photos of you with your pets and their descriptions, in case you become separated. Plan several days' supply of food and water, and don't forget a manual can opener. Stock up on nonperishable items well ahead of time, and add perishable items at the last minute. Their own beds and toys, along with grooming tools, can relieve stress during a disaster.
If you plan to leave the area, remember to find a safe place that will accept you and your pets ahead of time, and note your route of travel. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your homework. If you plan to stay with friends or relatives, contact them far in advance to ensure they are aware you will be bringing pets, and how many. If you will be checking into a hotel, research the hotel's pet-acceptance policies outside your immediate area, and ask if they vary during a disaster. Call early for a reservation, as other prepared pet owners may do the same.
If your plan is not to leave the immediate area, contact your local Red Cross chapter or emergency management, and inquire as to any pet-friendly shelters in your area. These are shelters for animals that are located close to the people shelters. It is impossible to determine in advance of a disaster where other temporary pet shelters may be opened. The path of a hurricane has canceled many well-planned sites for a shelter.
The Suncoast Humane Society played a major role in animal rescue and relief during Hurricane Charley in 2004. With luck, we will be ready to play that same important role when needed again. Like all shelters in times of disasters, our Animal Care Center will fill to capacity immediately with displaced animals. Shelters will not have room to temporarily board your pet. Again, advance planning for you and your pet is a must.
Much has been learned the hard way about the need to include our pets in your disaster-preparedness plan. It is equally important for farms, zoos, wildlife centers and animal sanctuaries to be prepared. Loose animals pose many problems, including the blocking of our major highways during emergencies.
We wish you and yours a very safe hurricane season. If you would like additional information, including a copy of our "You and Your Pet, Preparing for Disaster," please contact Suncoast at 941-474-7884, or visit us online at www.humane.org.