Hurricane Preparedness: Pet Plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Most people consider their pets a part of the family.

But while making plans to keep out of harm’s way, those extended family members may get neglected.

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It’s not necessarily that some people fail to plan for their animals’ safety, they just don’t do it properly.

There are measures that can be taken to make sure the family – even the members with more fur – are together safely once a hurricane has run its course.

“Usually with pets, people think they can bring them into a shelter, and they can’t,” said Dallas County Emergency Management Director Brett Howard. “Shelters only allow seeing-eye dogs. But we have local shelters that will house people’s pets.”

There are local veterinarians that shelter pets during severe storms, so it is a good idea for families to check with animal hospitals close to their homes.

Dr. John Wells of Northside Animal Hospital said his staff tries as much as possible to accommodate people who have to part ways with their pets.

“Like everybody else, we just try to help out,” Wells said. “A lot of people have nothing but the clothes on their back.”

Wells went on to say there aren’t too many surprises when people walk through the door.

“We mostly board dogs and cats,” he said. “We see a few birds and rabbits and things like that, but not too many exotics.”

Because pet shelters require proof of vaccinations, having animals on their current shots is necessary. It’s also a good idea to have a leash, proper size carrier, food and any necessary medications.

In the event that a pet is lost during the storm, families will also want to keep a current photo of their pets. They can call the Dallas County Animal Control office at (334) 872-5683 for assistance with finding their pets.

Even though many shelters will take in any animal that is needs boarding, it’s still a good idea to check ahead.

“Go ahead and know on your family plan if you want to board your pet and find vets in your area,” Howard said. “Know what they require for so many days and how much it will cost.”

Before the disaster:

If you plan to shelter your pet, work it into your evacuation route planning.

Make sure 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 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, friends and relatives out of harm’s way are all potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.

During the disaster:

Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have proper identification collars and rabies tags, proper identification on all belongings, carrier or cage, leash, and ample supply of food, water and food and water bowls, medications, specific care instructions and newspapers or trash bags for cleanup.

Bring pets indoors well in advance of the storm. Reassure them and remain calm.

Pet shelters will be filled on first-come, first-serve basis. Call ahead and determine availability.

After the disaster:

Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their homes. Often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered, and pets could be easily 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.