Safeguard your pets during hurricanes

In the rush of hurricane evacuations, pets often get left behind. Sometimes owners are forced to leave their pets because they don't know the options they have available.

Director of Public Safety in Conway, SC, Paul Whitten, has some evacuation tips, "Well, the first thing that people need to think about is they need to include their pets in any evacuation plans they might make. I tell people that you need to be thinking now about what are you going to do with your family? And your pets are part of your family, and there's a lot of options."

The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals seconds that advice to include pets in evacuation plans, noting that they aren't any better equipped to survive disasters than humans are.

So how can you bring along your animals? PETA suggests you know your destination ahead of time. Shelters often do not accept animals, but motels in the area will probably accept dogs, cats, and other small animals in an emergency. Call destinations in advance, and find out which ones will accommodate you and your animals. Do not plan to leave animals unsupervised in a car, since they can suffer from heatstroke.

Whitten also suggests checking area government websites for pet evacuation tips, "One thing that we do is on our website we publish a list of pet-friendly hotels on the evacuation route. This is a list of hotels that allow pets. Sometimes they're not normally allowed, but during a hurricane evacuation these hotels and motels make exceptions and allow people to bring their pets, which is a great option."

Sometimes the act of leaving results in pets so terrified that they escape and run away, so PETA cautions owners:

  1. Place small animals in secure carriers. Dogs should be leashed with harnesses, as frightening circumstances may make them bolt. Bring along water and food bowls, a towel, and enough food for a week.
  2. Put I.D. tags on your animals in case they become separated from you.

If you absolutely must leave your companion animals behind, leave them inside the house, with access to upper floors. Leave out at least 10 days' supply of dry food and water. Fill multiple sinks, bowls, pans, and plastic containers with water. Do not turn animals loose outside to fend for themselves or, worse, tie them up or leave them outside in cages, where they will be unable to flee rising flood waters.

Whitten sums up the lessons pet owners learned from Katrina, "One of the things I think we've really picked up on is the need to include our pets in our planning process, make sure we address what can happen to our pets now. Don't wait for the storm to come to shore. I think that's a critical lesson for us."

PETA encourages communities and individuals to implement the American Red Cross' preparation plans for animals.

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