Dog And Cat Hurricane Evacuation-Part 1

With the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina just 19 days away and tropical waves rolling off the Horn of Africa, thought it appropriate to publish a piece on hurricane preparedness tips for pets.

The single most important factor is to have a hurricane evacuation plan in place so that you and your pets can be as far from the hurricane as possible.

Notice I said you and your pets. After Katrina we spent a lot of time just calling friends, family, loved ones, coworkers, colleagues and clients to see if they were OK. For a year we tried in vain to reach my wife, Brenda’s, matron of honor from our wedding. Just last week, almost four years later we got an email from her on Brenda’s birthday and learned that she and her husband had lost everything in the storm and moved to Brownwood, TX.

In a followup email she told the story of a neighborhood dog that had been left behind, locked in a garage to fend for himself when the owners evacuated. The poor dog was terrorized and injured and had to be euthanized because the owners could not deal with their losses and the dog’s injuries.

Please understand that, even though we knew a killer Category 5 storm was coming, no more than a handful of people envisioned the destruction Katrina wrought. People whose property didn’t flood in 1969’s Hurricane Camille thought they would be safe in whatever Katrina brought.

That’s just one more thing we learned from Katrina. There can always be a bigger storm than the last “storm of a lifetime.”

In fact, attitudes about pets have changed for the better in many areas impacted by evacuations:

  • Many national hotel/motel chains now allow pets in their facilities.
  • A limited number of pet-friendly evacuation shelters now exist.
  • Cities far from the hurricane impact zone now can accommodate pets on a limited basis.
  • Some facilities may accept pets during an emergency that would not under “normal” circumstances.

If you are going to evacuate with your pet, plan for a long, slow ride on Interstate and lesser highways. Traffic is often bumper-to-bumper and you and your pet will need water to drink and food to eat while in the car. Law enforcement officials often don’t allow stopping or exiting on evacuation routes, so you may have to become creative to allow your pet a bathroom break.  Read’s Pet Travel Safety I and Pet Travel Safety II.

Plan ahead for your pets’ medications. If there are prescriptions your pet needs remember that hurricane season officially begins June 1 and sometimes storms are spawned before and after the official season. Never let levels of critical medications fall low during the season. Storms that arise in the Gulf Of Mexico can be on land in a surprisingly short time.

Some medications, such as insulin and chemotherapy drugs need to be kept cool. Have an ice chest ready to fill and a way to keep medicine cool but not frozen. Frozen insulin is worthless.

Active breeds of dogs are going to be restless in a slow-moving car. Have something for them to chew, such as rawhides, pigs’ ears, or a bone. A Kong toy filled with peanut butter will occupy a dog for hours.

Dog and cat tranquilizers may be a lifesaver for both you and your pet under these circumstances.

Have several routes planned, according to which direction a storm might take. Traffic on the immediate Coast may be limited to a northerly direction for upwards of 150 miles or more before it is allowed to disperse to the east or west. This aspect is quite variable according to the timing of your evacuation and the strength and travel route of the impending storm.  The earlier you evacuate the more options you will have.

Have adequate cash on hand. You may be able to use credit cards once you are out of the hurricane impact zone, but where there is no electricity credit cards are useless. Checks may not be accepted by businesspeople who don’t know you.

In addition to a variety of evacuation routes you need to have a variety of evacuation destinations. Family and friends may be willing to take you in, but don’t surprise them with pets. Some people may love you but not love your pets. Many people suffer from allergies to pet dander and inviting your pet into their home might be life-threatening for them.

Friday we will have additional hurricane evacuation and preparation tips for you.

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