How to Protect Your Pets During a Hurricane

The 2008 Hurricane Season started on June 1st and will continue until November 30th. Forecasters predict that 13-16 named storms will develop this season with as many as 9 of those storms reaching hurricane strength. The likelihood of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69%. This forecast is a reminder that owners and their pets may be forced to evacuate on short notice.

Yet studies on disaster evacuation show that only 40% of pet owners are prepared to evacuate their pets with the rest of the family. The remaining 60% evacuate without their pets and then risk their own lives by returning home prematurely to rescue their animals. Simple foresight and planning can protect both pet owners and their four-legged companions. Pets depend on us for their survival; to be prepared: Make certain that vaccinations are current. Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet. Assemble a portable Pet Safety Kit and carry a second kit in your car.

Have a properly sized pet carrier for each o pet. The carriers should be large enough for your pet to stand in and turn around. Affix pet rescue window stickers on prominent windows. This sticker will alert rescue workers that pets are inside if disaster strikes when you are away from home. If you and your pets evacuate, write "Evacuated" across the decal if you have sufficient time. Plan an evacuation strategy for your family and your pet.

Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are potential safe havens for your pet during a disaster. If you plan to shelter your pet, work it into your evacuation route planning. Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have: Proper identification collar and rabies tag. Proper identification on all belongings. Carrier or cage. Leash.

Water and food bowls and an ample supply of food and water. All necessary medications. Specific care instructions. Newspapers and paper bags for clean up.

Pet shelters fill up on a first come first served basis so call ahead to determine availability. After the disaster: Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets can easily become confused and lost. Downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose threats for animals after a disaster.

If your pet is lost, check with your local animal control office to find the location of recovered pets. Bring along a picture of your pet. After a disaster, animals can become aggressive or defensive so monitor their behavior.

Julie A. Calligaro is probate and estate planning attorney and author of How to Safeguard Your Pet in an Emergency and at Your Disability or Death and Arranging Your Financial And Legal Affairs. For a free checklist of the steps that protect your pets during an emergency and at your disability or death and a Pet Care Card to carry if you are injured or hospitalized, visit

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