Hurricane Matthew had many southeast coast residents worrying about their safety, and the safety of their homes, last week. Of course, the damage from this particular storm could have been much worse, but 2016’s hurricane season is far from over.
Most of the people who live in the Southeastern United States are well aware of the financial cost of hurricanes, tropical storms and other extreme weather events — water damages cost an average of $2,386 alone to fix, while wind damages can cost up to $10,000 — and they take steps to safeguard their property against the worst of the damage. And of course everyone who lives in the path of a hurricane knows the importance of stocking up on bottled water, shelf-stable snacks, flashlights, batteries and other emergency preparedness items.
Unfortunately, one thing that can slip the minds of many homeowners when it comes to preparing for impending storms is the welfare of their pets. Since 37%-47% of households have least one dog, and even more have cats or other animals, it’s hard to imagine that they would be left out of the equation.
“We often find that residents simply do not think that a storm will impact them,” said Dil Luther, the Orange County Animal Services Division Manager. “Therefore, [they] do not have a disaster plan, or do not include their pets in those plans.”
Orange County Animal Services says that all pet owners in the area should buy at least two pounds of food per pet when putting together their storm preparations. They also recommend visiting the vet for last-minute vaccinations and microchip enabling, just in case these pets become lost. Having a photo of your pet will also help during search efforts.
When you prepare a disaster kit for yourself and family, consider your pets’ needs as well. In addition to food and water, pet carriers, blankets, and a waterproof container to hold your pet’s medical records are necessary items to include. Newspaper or litter, cleaning supplies, and plastic bags for animal waste, as well as favorite toys or other comforting items, are also recommended.
Pets, especially those who are scared by occasional thunder or lightning, will most likely become nervous or upset during the storm. Adding a cotton sheet or blanket to the disaster kit to put over the carrier will help pets relax during the storm.
“A lot of our customers actually use thunder coats,” said April Godsey, assistant manager at Preppy Pet Boarding and Daycare in south Orlando. “[It] holds the dogs tight, and there’s a lavender smell that sends off to help keep [dogs] at ease.”
In case of evacuation, pet owners should realize that many shelters will not allow them to bring their four-legged friends. All American Red Cross-sponsored shelter sites prohibit animals, and many others do as well. Godsey reports that more than two dozen animals had been booked to stay at her pet boarding facility during Hurricane Matthew.
Before the storm hits, research hotels and shelters outside of the hurricane zones that allow dogs. The Humane Society of the United States recommends Bring Fido, DogFriendly.com, Dog In My Suitcase, Pet Friendly Hotels, Pets Allowed Hotels, Pets Welcome, and Trips With Pets for finding safe, pet-friendly accommodations in your area. Hotels may also be willing to waive their pet fees or policies during the hurricane. Before the storm hits, make calls to hotels, predetermined shelters, or even family members that may be willing to allow your animal to stay during the harsh conditions.
Tropical Storm Nicole, currently located 900 miles east of Miami, is expected to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane with 100-mph winds, potentially threatening Bermuda by the end of the week.