I thought I would have had more time to update this blog, as it's one I update every year. It's not even mid-June, and we've already experienced our first tropical storm, TS Colin. This storm was a real rain-maker, and caused havoc throughout the Tampa Bay area. If this storm developed a few weeks later, there's a good possibility it could have been a category one or category two storm with the potential for more destruction. Which gets me to thinking- how many of us have our hurricane plans laid out? How many of us have our supplies ready? I think some of us were caught a little surprised by Colin, and we need to realize the threat of a disastrous hurricane is real. We've been fortunate for several years without a major storm making landfall on the Sunshine State, but statistics say that it has to happen sooner or later.
First thing that we need to do is gather supplies and make a plan as to where we're going to go if we are forced to evacuate.
If you need to evacuate, remember that most shelters in our area do not accept pets. If you routinely board your pet(s) at a kennel or 'doggie day care' check with their staff to learn about their hurricane policies and procedures. Remember, their employees may need to evacuate too- so they may not be able to remain open during a storm. Don't assume you will be able to board your pets in the event of a storm at your regular facility, including TVH.
Where am I going to go with my family and pets?
Option 1: Friends/Family
Seek out friends or family who live outside of the storm's path, if possible. Consideration should be given to their ability to house another family, including additional pets. Contact them months in advance prior to hurricane season to make sure that your family and pets will be welcome in the event of a hurricane.
Option 2: Hotel/Motel
Find a pet-friendly hotel outside of the projected path of the storm. Although this would be an added expense during an already stressful time, having a safe and secure location for your family and pets is well worth the peace of mind. There are hundreds of pet-friendly hotels throughout the state. Below are some websites which can help you select the right hotel for you and your family. Find a few properties in different locations throughout the state that would meet your specific needs. Put their numbers in your cell phone so you have them at the ready if you need to evacuate.
Option 3: Evacuation/Emergency Shelter
The options here are highly limited in our area, as Hillsborough County only offers four pet-friendly shelters and Pinellas only listing three. This should be considered a last option if you must evacuate, as living conditions will be less than ideal, and you are still within the storm's path.
All shelters will require proof of vaccinations.
Pinellas county requires pre-registration for their pet-friendly shelters and preference is given to families in mobile homes and within evacuation zones A,B and C. If you live in Pinellas County and have no other place to evacuate to, pre-register for a location now, so you may be approved well in advance of the storm. Hillsborough county does not require pre-registration, but space is limited in each shelter. Have a plan B if you are unable to get into a shelter which accepts pets. For more information on shelters for both counties:
Option 4: Stay in your residence
This option should NEVER be used if you live in an area which is under a mandatory evacuation. ALWAYS follow the direction of your local emergency management officials. Shelter in place only if you are not under a mandatory evacuation, and only if you are positive your residence can withstand the punishment from the storm.
If you are staying within your residence, prepare an area in the interior section of your house for your family to include your pets. As the storm approaches, place your pets in a pet crate with some comfort items such as a blanket, pet bed or favorite toys. Your pets will most likely become anxious and frightened during the height of the storm. If your home is damaged during the storm, a sturdy crate or pet carrier will be the safest place for them, and lessens the potential for escape.
I strongly suggest having each of your pets microchipped. Microchip technology reunites more lost pets with their owners than any other method. If your pet should escape or become lost during a hurricane or for any other reason, a microchip implanted between the shoulder blades of your pet is the most reliable way to have your pet returned to you.
Determining where you are going to go is just step one. Now, you need to gather your pet's storm supplies to ensure their health and safety during and after the storm.
Here is your checklist of things you will need FOR EACH PET:
Proof of Vaccinations- if you plan on evacuating to a emergency shelter, proof of vaccines will be required. Be sure you check with your local shelters to learn about their specific rules and what else will be required.
Two-weeks worth of food
Feeding and water dishes
Manual can opener if your pet eats canned food
Two weeks worth of fresh water
Cat litter, newspaper or other cat litter material
Plastic bags for handling pet waste
2 weeks worth of any medication(s)
Cage/Pet carrier- Pet carriers or crates should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. It should also have secure doors to prevent escape.
Current photo of pet
Adhesive tape such as vet wrap
Comfort items such as chew toys, blankets or pet beds.
I will keep my fingers crossed for another quiet hurricane season, but in the meantime, I will be gathering my supplies and calling my relatives on the east coast to let them know I'm heading towards them if a major storm has designs on the Tampa Bay region. Please heed my advice and prepare. Your pets will thank you for it.