TAMPA, Fla. – With hurricane season around the corner, BluePearl Veterinary Partners recommends families remember their pets when making household emergency plans.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.
Most evacuation shelters don’t accept pets and, if they do, it is important to have a copy of your pet’s complete vaccination record when you show up, otherwise your pet may be turned away.
During Hurricane Katrina, it is estimated more than 250,000 pets were separated from their families. Some were left behind by people thinking the evacuation would last only a few days, while others were forcibly separated by rescue personnel when the necessity to save human lives trumped saving animals.
Stacey Wieder, CVPM, PHR, the practice manager at BluePearl in Tampa, is more than familiar with preparations for tropical storms and hurricanes.
“At a hospital where I worked previously, we had to evacuate the hospital three times in one season due to Hurricanes Charley, Ivan and Jeanne,” said Wieder. “When people are planning ahead they should really contact their ‘other family doctor’ — their family’s veterinarian — and find out what additional preparations should be taken to protect their pets.”
Besides the destruction left in their paths, hurricanes are notorious for causing lengthy power outages and water shortages. Since your veterinarian may also have to evacuate, make sure you have a two-week supply of your pet’s medications, food and water.
The National Hurricane Center’s recommendations for a pet plan are:
BEFORE THE DISASTER
- Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
- Have a current photograph.
- Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
- Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal – carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
- Plan your evacuation strategy and don’t forget your pet! Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm’s way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.
- If you plan to shelter your pet – work it into your evacuation route planning.
DURING THE DISASTER
- Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have: Proper identification collar and rabies tag, proper identification on all belongings, a carrier or cage, a leash, an ample supply of food, water and food bowls, any necessary medications, specific care instructions and news papers or trash bags for clean-up.
- Bring pets indoor well in advance of a storm – reassure them and remain calm.
- Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first served basis. Call ahead and determine availability.
AFTER THE DISASTER
- Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home – often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
- If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.
- After a disaster, animals can become aggressive or defensive – monitor their behavior.
- Don’t forget your pet when preparing a family disaster plan.
PET DISASTER SUPPLY KIT
- Proper identification including immunization records
- Ample supply of food and water
- A carrier or cage
- Muzzle, collar and leash
In addition to what the NHC recommends, BluePearl recommends talking to your family veterinarian about having your pets micro-chipped, so in the event you and your pets are separated, your pets can be quickly identified and reunited with you.
During a disaster like a hurricane, BluePearl Veterinary Partners specialty and emergency hospitals remain open unless forced to evacuate. BluePearl hospitals are not evacuation shelters and only provide emergency and specialty treatment.
BluePearl offers free continuing education classes for veterinarians and veterinary technicians on a regular basis, usually on a clinical topic. However, this Thursday, Wieder will branch beyond clinical topics to lead a continuing education class at BluePearl on the topic of disaster preparedness free of charge for veterinary professionals.