Adopting or buying a dog or cat is a bit like adopting a child. They will give you unconditional love and loyalty; they will be an important part of your family, and they will provide true companionship to you and your family.
Yet pet owners should not forget that dogs and cats need to be fed, loved, disciplined and protected. They will depend on you to keep them safe for their lifetime, especially in uncertain times.
Perhaps it is a drop in barometric pressure, but animals know when a change in weather is imminent. They can feel your concern and see a change in your schedule. They can hear the noise of the wind as the speed and intensity increases.
On a personal note, despite being 2 blocks from an evacuation zone, we decided not to evacuate as our home is hardened for storms and we did not want to remove our dogs from their home. For 18 hours, our dogs lay on our feet and looked at us with worried faces while the wild winds and rain of Hurricane Irma pelted our windows. It was difficult to comfort them despite all the attention that we showed them.
They could not understand what was going on and were visibly disturbed. If we went to the next room, they went to the next room right on our heels. They followed us to the bathroom, to the kitchen and to the bedroom all day and night. When we snuck them outside between weather bands for a bathroom break, they strained on their leashes with wild eyes wondering where they should run. (We did have them on leashes.)
We got through the storm together and, we would not have done it any other way.
It is very important that pet owners must have a plan to deal with disasters such as hurricanes, floods or fires, and this plan must include their pet. You should never leave your dog or cat alone in times of disasters.
What can you do to prepare should you need to leave your home?
Call your local government and identify pet friendly shelters as they fill up quickly. Find pet friendly hotels in areas that are deemed safe and make reservations early.
Get a pet crate or pet carrier for your pet if they will be with you in a shelter as shelters require that your pet be contained during their stay. Be sure you have good pet pads to keep your pet dry and clean. You may also want to bring your pet to the hotel in a crate or carrier to keep it safe and secure.
Put a used t-shirt in your dog or cat’s crate so they will feel comfort with your scent.
Bring your pet’s leash and be sure your contact information is on a tag on your pet’s collar.
Bring at least 4-5 days supply of food and also a food and water bowl.
Bring all of your pet’s medication and a copy of your pet’s rabies certificate if it does not have a rabies tag.
Bring a chew toy or a few more of your pet’s toys to help keep it occupied.
Bring a spare towel for easy clean ups.
What to do if you need to evacuate and cannot take your pet?
Ask friends or relatives in areas not threatened by the crisis whether they can care for your pet during the disaster. Drive them if you can and relocate them well in advance.
If you elect to fly, your pet can accompany you, so make reservations early and make sure your pet is fit to fly with a visit to your vet for a health certificate.
The very last resort is to surrender your dog or cat to a shelter. Although it is hard to understand how a pet owner could choose this option, it is certainly better than abandoning them in an empty home or, worse yet, in the middle of a storm or fire. Just know that you are giving up your rights to your dog or cat. After surrendering, it will be put up for adoption.
There is no excuse for leaving your pet with no means to protect itself during disasters. Pet owners take on the responsibility to care for their dog or cat for its lifetime when they get their pet. If they cannot fulfill this commitment, they simply should not get a pet. Period.