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Are We Prepared?

A New Hurricane Season is Upon Us and What Have We Done for Our Pets?

by Brooks Gardner
June 26, 2006

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Are We Prepared?

On February 27, of this year, I wrote of a dog of great courage who survived the floods of Katrina on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.  The article called "A Heart of Gold: A Dog's Story of Survival."  Following that disastrous storm, we learned a lot about the plight of pets and farm animals.  He heard stories of great courage of many of the pets as I described in my story of Coco , the Chocolate Lab.  We also saw the great efforts made to rescue pets and attempts made to reunite them with their owners.  I believe that most of Americans realize the importance of pets and their valued place in our lives.  Because of this importance, we find many organizations that are providing information about preparing your pet for a disaster.

The Hurricane Season is on us.  Those of us who live in the Southeast, generally between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico have had some experience with hurricanes.  We know that these storms can plow their way inland and leave behind great destruction.   Not only are hurricanes troublesome, there are many weather conditions that require us to prepare (tornadoes, floods, volcanic eruptions, earth quakes, winter storms, etc.).  In the past little was said about our pets' safety during a disaster.  Well this year we can find a whole list of fact-filled information. I will share my list with you at the end of my article. 

Just as you would prepare a family emergency supply kit you need a pet emergency supply kit located with your family emergency kit:

  • Ample supply of food, either dry or canned (pop top or have a can opener).

  • Enough water to last from three to seven days.

  • Pet feeding dishes.

  • Muzzle, collar, leash, and perhaps a harness.  

  • Proper identification including immunization records.

  • Your pet's ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs.

  • Current photos of your pets in case they become lost.

  • Medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.

  • A two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires.

  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

  • Disposable litter trays (aluminum pans are perfect) for cats.

  • Litter or paper toweling.   

  • A pet traveling bag or sturdy carrier, ideally for each pet.

  • Flashlight and extra batteries.

  • Blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet).

  • Proper fitting muzzle.  Your dog may not usually wear a muzzle, but this may be a good idea because we cannot predict a dog's reaction in a state of confusion.

Pet Safety Tips

Always bring pets indoors at the first warning of a storm.

  • Have at least a week's supply of food and water on hand for each animal in your household.

  • Have favorite treats that your animals like, which can be a comfort to them during the stressful time that follows a disaster.

  • Do not let pets drink flood water or any other water that may be contaminated as a result of a disaster.

  • Keep a backup supply of any medications your pet may be on since a veterinary office may not open for some time following a disaster.

  • Keep a collar and up-to-date tags on your pets. Tattooing or micro chipping your animals is a more permanent form of identification.

  • Start a buddy system with someone in your neighborhood, so that they will check on your animals during a disaster in case you aren't home. Agree to do the same thing for them.

  • If you evacuate, have a cat or dog carrier to evacuate each animal in your household. (In an emergency, a pillowcase is an alternate way to transport a cat.)

  • Have a leash for each dog. (A harness is also helpful in case a dog panics and tries to slip out of her or her collar.) Stake-out lines are also helpful for dogs if you are going to be relocated for a longer period of time.


Before a disaster strikes, know where you can take your pets if you must evacuate.   Most shelters do not allow animals of any kind, so if your home or neighborhood is evacuated, you will probably not be able to take your pets to the shelter with you.  Most hotels and motels do not allow pets either.  This is an area that needs work to accomplish some means of sheltering our pets during a disaster. 

If you choose to shelter your pets at home alone, be sure to leave them plenty of food and water and newspaper or cat litter.  Do not tie or cage your pets since the chances for survival are greater if they can escape easily.

Mark Twain told us that heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. 

"Only animals were not expelled from Paradise ," was related by Milan Kundera. 

We all agree about the importance of our pets in our lives. I hope you will use this information to be prepared for disasters.

The American Red Cross:

The Humane Society

American Veterinary Medical Association:


The Department of Homeland Security  



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