On Wednesday, Tropical Storm Dorian strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane.
According to ABC News, Dorian is currently dousing the U.S. and British Virgin Islands in heavy rain, and is on track to make to pass through Puerto Rico and potentially strengthen to a Category 3 storm.
If the hurricane stays on its current course, it could make landfall in Florida over Labor Day weekend.
For those in the storm’s path, now is a key time to review your natural disaster preparedness plan, which should include a plan for your pet too.
The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team has created a pet disaster plan kit to assist families that could face a weather-related catastrophe. Having a disaster plan for your entire family helps keeps everyone safe during the chaos the often accompanies a natural disaster.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, you should have the following items on-hand as part of your pet disaster plan kit:
- Food and water for at least five days for each pet. Also bring bowls and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food.
- Medications for at least five days and all medical records, including vaccination history. Keep these stored in a waterproof container. You may also consider storing them digitally on a flash drive or online.
- Litter box with extra litter and a scoop.
- Sturdy leashes, harness and carriers to transport pets safely.
- Pack a pet first aid kit.
- Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with tags for identification. Ensuring your pet is microchipped is ideal as collars can be easily removed.
- Current photos of you with your pets and descriptions of your animals.
- Comfort items, which may include a pet bed or a special toy, to reduce stress.
- Written information about your pets feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian. Keep both a hard copy and an email version, as access to the internet is often limited during times of disaster.
Additionally, the HSUS suggests keeping extra newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items and household bleach on hand to keep your pet and their belongings clean.
Along with having a fully-stocked kit, it’s important to have a natural disaster evacuation plan for your family. It is important to have several pet-friendly evacuation options, since some hotels and shelters may turn animals away.
The HSUS also has helpful tips on how to form a complete evacuation plan for you and your furry family members:
- If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pet. Never assume that you will be allowed to bring your pet to an emergency shelter. Before a disaster hits, call your local office of emergency management to verify that there will be shelters in your area that take people and their pets. Have a list of hotels and motels that accept pets in a 100-mile radius of your home. Keeping in mind that in a catastrophic event, local hotels will fill quickly and may not be available. Make arrangements with friends or relatives in advance to ensure that you and your pets are able to seek shelter in their home, if needed. If housing together is not an option, know the requirements of your kennel or veterinarian’s office for pet boarding. And as a last resort, connect with your local animal shelter to determine if they will offer temporary boarding during the time of crisis. Keep in mind that they too may be impacted by the disaster and unavailable to house animals.
- Have a plan in place for when you are out of town or cannot get home to your pet when a disaster strikes. Find a trusted neighbor, friend or family member and give them a spare key. Ensure that they know your pet’s feeding and medication schedule, and if using a pet sitting service, find out ahead of time if they will be able to help in the event of an emergency.
- If you stay home, do it safely. If your family and pets must wait out the hurricane at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide. Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area. Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification. If you have a room you can designate as a “safe room,” put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet’s crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies. If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape. Listen to the radio periodically, and do not come out until you know it’s safe.
- If the electricity goes out. If you’re forced to leave your home because you’ve lost electricity, take your pets with you to a pet-friendly hotel or pet-friendly emergency shelter. Your local emergency manager will have information on emergency shelters.
Preparedness is key! Following these tips will help protect your entire family, including your pets, during a weather-related catastrophe.