(May 29, 2012)— The Humane Society of the United States urges residents in East Coast and Gulf Coast states to keep their pets in mind in preparation for a natural disaster. People can take some simple – but critical – steps to keep their pets safe and healthy in severe weather and possible evacuations. More than 35 million people, many of them pet owners, live in areas threatened by Atlantic hurricanes.
“More than 60 percent of American households have pets, and weathering a major storm requires an evacuation plan that includes our animals,” said Niki Dawson, director of disaster services for The HSUS. “If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for them. If you are ordered to shelter-in-place and not evacuate, bring your pets inside with you and make sure you have adequate supplies.”
The HSUS Animal Rescue Team has a fully equipped response team to assist communities impacted by a natural disaster. In 2011, The HSUS responded to natural disasters in North Carolina, Vermont, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, and North Dakota, helping to care for more than 2,000 displaced animals.
AccuWeather forecasters predict an average hurricane season from June to November. Pet owners can reduce their animals' chances of being at risk during a disaster by following the suggestions below.
Things you can do right now:
- Put a collar with visible identification on your pets, including indoor-only pets.
- Keep pictures of your pets on hand for identification purposes. Ideally, you should also be in the photo.
- Create a pet emergency kit (see below) and refresh the items every few months.
- Talk to your neighbors about how they can help your pets if you are not at home when disaster strikes.
- Create a list of hotels that allow pets. Plan on evacuating about 100 miles inland.
Pet emergency kits should include:
- Minimum of a three-day supply of food in airtight, waterproof containers, and drinking water.
- Bowls for food and water.
- Current photos and physical description of your pets, including details on markings.
- Medications, vaccination records and first aid pet supplies.
- Comfort items such as a toy and blanket.
- Small garbage bags.
- For dogs include: leash, harness and a sturdy carrier large enough to use as a sleeping area.
- For cats include: litter and litter box and a sturdy carrier large enough for transport and for your cat to use as a temporary “apartment” for several days.
A Zogby International poll after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast found that 61 percent of pet owners will not evacuate if they cannot bring their pets with them. In 2006, Congress addressed this issue by passing the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, which requires state and local emergency management agencies to make plans that take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster or emergency. It is crucial that all pet owners reach out to their local government to understand their community's existing human and pet evacuation plans.
And finally, click here for a brochure on farm animals in disaster, including sheltering in-place preparations as well as evacuations.
For more tips on preparedness plans that include your pets, visit humanesociety.org/prepare.