Pet Safety: Hurricane Season Preparedness

Imagine the winds howling, rain lashing against windows, and uncertainty hanging in the air as a hurricane approaches.

In these moments, every pet owner faces a critical decision: how to safeguard their beloved companions.

hurricane preparedness for pets

Hurricane season is just around the corner, and it’s time to prepare our pets when this natural disaster hits. 

Hurricane season officially kicks off on June 1 and runs until November 30, but that doesn’t mean pet parents should wait until a hurricane watch is announced to develop an emergency disaster plan for their dog or cat.

Not having an emergency plan or the proper emergency supplies during a hurricane can put all humans and pets at risk.

As a pet industry professional, I witnessed the problems many pet parents experienced when I volunteered to help manage an emergency hurricane pet shelter area in support of the Hawaiian Humane Society in 2021.

From evacuation plans to assembling emergency kits, navigating disaster preparedness for pets demands foresight and readiness.

In this blog, you will learn why preparing your pets for hurricanes is essential, what to do with your pets during a hurricane, how to prepare a pet emergency kit and more.

 This blog is about hurricane preparedness tips for pets.

Disaster Preparedness for Pets.

Why Do You Need to Prepare Your Pets for Disasters?

disaster preparedness for pets

Preparing your pets for natural disasters like hurricanes is not just a precaution; it’s a responsibility rooted in love and compassion. 

Dogs and cats are inherently vulnerable during emergencies, so they rely entirely on their pet parents for safety and survival. 

Adequate preparation ensures that they are not left behind or exposed to harm when disaster strikes. 

pet disaster preparedness

From securing their shelter to stocking essential supplies, proactive measures can significantly reduce their stress and increase their chances of enduring the crisis unharmed. 

Moreover, including pets in your disaster preparedness plans strengthens the bond between you and your pets, demonstrating your commitment to their well-being in every situation.

Have a Pet Emergency Kit Prepared.

pet disaster preparedness kit

Have you assembled an emergency kit for your pet, with essential supplies and a well-thought-out evacuation plan for your dog or cat?

Disaster officials always stress the importance of having emergency kits ready to go with all the necessary supplies and evacuation plans for ourselves and every individual in our household.

So why wouldn’t you include your pet? 

Putting together a pet emergency kit with pet-specific supplies is similar to putting together a human emergency kit, with a few minor tweaks.

pet emergency kit checklist

Online resources like the American Red Cross and International Fund for Animal Welfare provide a checklist with recommended supplies. 

Still, you won’t find a general across-the-board list with the same recommended list from these resources.

Here is a comprehensive list I put together of essential emergency pet supplies to include in your kit:

  • A printed copy of your pet’s current vaccinations, medications and supplements, heartworm test results, and rabies certificate, if applicable. I say “if applicable” because pets born and raised in Hawai’i who do not travel outside of the Hawaiian islands or abroad do not receive rabies vaccinations. The Hawaiian islands are a few known places where rabies does not exist.  
  • Recent photographs of your pet. A clear, updated front-facing picture with a complete body picture is highly recommended for easy identification.
  • Pet description to include your pet’s species (canine or feline), breed, sex (male or female), color, weight, neuter/spay status, and any special markings.
  • Microchip number and information about the microchip company, such as the company name and phone number. 
  • Your current contact information: phone number, email address, home address, and any emergency contacts, like your spouse, partner, or relatives authorized to act on your behalf regarding your pet.
  • Proof of ownership, like city and county registration or adoption paperwork.
  • A secure and waterproof envelope to hold all these documents to prevent any damage.
  • A two-week supply of food stored in a waterproof, sealable container if you feed your pet dry food. This might prove tricky if you feed your pet a raw diet or cook your pet’s food, so be sure to ask your veterinarian for food alternatives or any recommendations on food storage for your pet’s current diet. Some raw and cooked freeze-dried food options like Boss Dog or Boss Cat from Boss Nation Brand, Sundays for Dogs, and Grandma Lucy’s can work as a temporary substitute. If you feed your pet “canned” wet food, just make sure you have enough to cover the recommended 14 days.
  • Manual can opener if applicable.
  • Two-week supply of water.
  • Spill-proof pet bowls for their food and water.
  • Feeding instructions to include how much and how often your pet eats.
  • Two-week supply of medications and supplements to include instructions.
  • A one-month supply of flea, tick, and heartworm preventative.
  • A leash, collar, or harness. Ensure none of these items are torn, have rips, or can easily fall apart when your pet wears them.
  • Pet identification tags that can be easily read and with your current contact information.
  • A kennel or crate that is the right size for your pet, bedding, blankets, or towels.
  • Cleaning supplies like dog waste bags, paper towels, disinfectant cleaning spray, and grooming wipes should be included. Litter and a litter pan for cats should also be included if applicable.
  • Pet first aid kit.
  • A secure and waterproof bag or container to put all the supplies inside.

pet evac pak

Some of these supplies may not make sense at home.

Still, suppose you must evacuate your home and head to an evacuation shelter with your dog or cat. In that case, you must have your own emergency supplies for your pet if staying at a local emergency disaster shelter.

Disaster officials or shelter staff will not provide supplies for your pets, including crates or kennels.

If putting together a DIY Pet Emergency Kit sounds a bit overwhelming, consider buying a pet emergency go bag like Pet Evac Pak.

Pet Evac Pak’s a pre-packed pet emergency “go bag” for your dog or cat with emergency pet supplies. 

These bags are an excellent alternative for pet parents who might be tight on time and resources. 

You can add any additional emergency pet supplies to these sturdy and roomy bags, like medication and cleaning supplies your pet might need if you have to evacuate to a shelter.

DON’T Leave Your Pets Outside.

what to do with your pets during a hurricane

When a hurricane is making its way, and the threat of landfall is imminent, you need to figure out where to put your pet during a hurricane; one of the most critical steps in emergency pet preparedness is bringing your pet indoors.

Secure your dog or cat indoors where it’s safe, dry, and out of the dangerous elements. 

Leaving your dog or cat outside increases your pet’s risk of going missing because they are scared and put their lives in danger.

what to do with pets during a hurricane

News stations will broadcast ample warnings to give you time to get your butts in gear, so there are ZERO excuses for waiting until the last minute to prepare because you didn’t know. 

If you happen to have a dog or cat that is not typically an “indoor pet,” take the time and designate a room or area inside your home (bathroom, laundry room, kitchen) where they can be safe and sheltered from the hurricane.

Prepare any space by making it as comfortable for your pet as possible with towels, blankets, soft beds to lay on, food, water, a crate or kennel as a makeshift den, puppy pads or litter box to relieve themselves, and a baby gate to keep them secured in their designated space.

dog bathroom during hurricane
Picture Credit: Meadow Brook Dalmations

If you’re not a fan of puppy pads, you can create an indoor grass space for your dog.

You can use a small kiddie plastic pool and lay some sod pieces inside for your dog to easily use during bathroom breaks.

fresh patch
Picture Credit: Fresh Patch

Companies like Fresh Patch, Doggie Lawn, and Bark Potty provide smaller natural grass or bark options if a kiddie pool is too big for your indoor space.

When creating a designated pet area, consider a space where you can easily watch your dog or cat and your pet can see you, which can be helpful during stressful times.

Know Your Nearest Designated Emergency Shelter Location.

pet friendly evacuation shelters

As much as we all think we will be sheltering in place in the comforts of our homes, it’s not always the case, as some areas might be considered mandatory evacuation zones.

A critical step in disaster preparedness for pets is learning how to evacuate with your pet and where the nearest designated pet-friendly evacuation shelter is located.

Although all shelters are supposed to be considered “pet-friendly,” from my experience, it’s not always possible due to a lack of shelter personnel and space.

I recommend familiarizing with emergency shelter protocols and requirements, especially concerning pets. 

the humane society of the United States
Picture Credit: The Humane Society of the United States

Pets are not always allowed to stay with you at emergency shelters and will often be separated in a pet-designated area. 

Pet parents may be required to show proof of updated vaccines and that their pets have all the proper emergency pet supplies.

During my shift at the emergency evacuation shelter, pets were not permitted to stay in the same area as their pet parents, and the pet emergency shelter area was a separate building a walk away. 

Pet parents were permitted to visit with their pets but had to walk through the stormy conditions to get to the building, and there was no adequate form of communication in a pet emergency. 

the university of New Mexico
Picture Credit: The University of New Mexico

Proof of vaccinations had to be presented upon check-in, and pet parents had to provide supplies, which many did not have.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic at the time, American Red Cross personnel from the mainland (Continental US) were not permitted to enter Hawai’i, making staffing shelters extremely limited. 

Some designated emergency shelters throughout the island had difficulty finding a space to create and organize a designated space for pets. 

The Hawaiian Humane Society had minimal supplies to spare to help volunteer staff members, complicating the situation. 

Taking the extra steps to familiarize yourself with emergency shelter protocols, rules, and requirements affords you enough time to go out and buy any supplies for your pet you may not already have at home.

Have a Pet Evacuation Plan Ready.

pet evacuation plan

Do you know how to evacuate with your pet? 

It may sound easy, but when all hell breaks loose, you may suddenly find yourself unable to take your dog or cat with you.

When rushing around and trying to remember if you have everything you need, knowing where your emergency supplies are, where you are going, and how to take your pet safely with you can lessen some of the stress.

Don’t ever think, “Oh, I’ll just come back and get my dog or cat,” because there is a chance that local authorities may not permit you to enter the area where your home is located once you leave.

evacuation plan for dogs

If you are given an advanced evacuation warning or feel conditions are becoming unsafe, leave with your pet while you still have time.

When you wait until the last minute to evacuate, you will most likely forget what you need to take because your adrenaline will rush, and you won’t be able to think clearly.

If you have more than one person in your household, designate someone to be the “pet evacuation leader,” the one individual who will grab your dog or cat, grab the emergency pet supplies, and get your pet safely inside the car.

As you’re packing up your car, you want to be sure you can fit everything inside with your pet?

national animal disaster preparedness day

If you must bring a travel crate or carrier for your pet, you must ensure it fits safely inside your vehicle. 

When you purchase a travel crate or carrier, they often come disassembled. 

Take measurements to know the proper size of crate or carrier for your pet, ensure that the crate can be quickly loaded inside your vehicle, and determine how much room you’ll have remaining for your emergency bags and supplies.

emergency preparedness for your dog

This is extremely important if you have a large dog or multiple dogs. 

Large or Giant dog breeds take up more space; the same rules apply if you have multiple dogs. 

You don’t want to find out at the last minute you can’t fit your dog(s), family members, and emergency supplies inside your car.

If you are a two-car household, consider designating one vehicle to transport your pet(s) and another for emergency supplies and additional family members.

Having a pet evacuation plan and knowing how to evacuate with your dog or cat will make a stressful time more manageable for you and your pets during a natural disaster.

DON’T Abandon Your Pets!

things you should not do during a hurricane

If you find yourself in a predicament during the chaos a hurricane brings, whatever you do, DON’T ABANDON YOUR DOG OR CAT!!!

Dogs and cats that are abandoned because their pet parents didn’t have an emergency pet plan in place are at risk of going missing, getting injured, or being killed.

Pet abandonment sadly happened during Hurricane Harvey in Florida and Texas in 2017. 

leaving pets behind hurricane

It is sickening to learn that an estimated 50,000 pets were left alone, terrified as the storm rolled through and died because of their so-called family ditching them.

Thankfully, many of these abandoned pets were saved by rescue workers who set out through neighborhoods, finding them and getting them safely and out of harm’s way.

Here’s a “fun fact” pet owners found to have abandoned their pets during Hurricane Harvey were not allowed to have their pets returned to them. 

paw buzz
Picture Credit: Paw Buzz

The local authorities legally charged these pet owners with animal cruelty due to their negligence, putting these animals’ lives in extreme danger and leaving them to die.

Sadly, many irresponsible pet owners never came looking for their pets when they returned home after the storm. 

Some pet owners flat out said they didn’t want their dog or cat anymore and relinquished custody when contacted by authorities.

how can I prepare my pet for hurricane season

As a new hurricane season approaches, pet parents should never have the mentality that “it’s never going to happen” because one thing is for sure, Mother Nature is incredibly unpredictable.

Have a pet emergency plan in place, and make sure your dog or cat has a kit with emergency pet supplies ready.

This blog was about hurricane preparedness for pets.

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