By Phillip Snyder, Executive Director
Published in the Gasparilla Gazette on June 3, 2014
It is the beginning of that season again: the season when we are prone to storms and hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic. We are starting to hear that we should all be prepared and have a plan, just in case. We are hearing it on the radio, TV, and reading it in newsprint. There have already been hurricane workshops in the area. But, you know what I have not heard enough of? Disaster preparedness for our pets.
Pets are an important part of our families and must be included in our planning process. There are definitely steps that can be taken, to be better prepared, to care for our fuzzy friends. When you are preparing the checklist for yourself, consider the following for your pets: stock up on non-perishable items well ahead of time, adding perishables at the last minute.
Your pet's disaster kit should include medication and medical records, leashes, harnesses, and carriers for transporting. Current photos of you with your pet and descriptions just in case you become separated, several days supply of food and water, and a manual can opener are just a few things you shouldn't forget. Their own bed and toys, along with grooming tools, can relieve stress.
Remember to find a safe place ahead of time and note your route of travel. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your homework. Contact your friends or relatives well in advance, to be sure they are aware you will be bringing pets, and how many. Check the hotel's pet acceptance policies outside your immediate area and ask if they vary during a disaster. Call early for a reservation.
If your plan is not to leave the immediate area, contact the Red Cross 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 cancelled many well-planned sites for a shelter.
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 in the next disaster. Like all animal care and control organizations, our animal care center will fill to capacity, immediately with displaced animals. Your local 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 our disaster preparedness plans. If you would like additional information, please contact Suncoast Humane Society. Here's wishing you and yours a very safe hurricane season.