According to a recent report issued by the researchers at the Colorado State University, the 2018 hurricane season could be an above average season. Translation – more storms and more storms of a greater severity could form this year.
Last September Hurricane Irma’s eye was directly in line with St. Petersburg. It was a chaotic, nail-biting time with hundreds of people evacuating their homes and scrambling to find places for their pets. Although Irma veered and we escaped certain disaster, her threat was a powerful reminder of the area’s risk of catastrophe.
Pinellas County Animal Services
Many pet owners are unaware that animal shelters, such as Pinellas County Animal Services, the Humane Society, and the SPCA cannot accept their pets during hurricanes. As a matter of fact, the Humane Society of Pinellas County sustained $15,000 damage from Hurricane Irma and worked feverishly to place their shelter animals in emergency evacuation homes.
Another vital piece of information for St. Petersburg pet owners – don’t assume that a boarding kennel or hotel/motel will accept your pet. Check ahead for kennels in non-evacuation zones. For more information: http://www.pinellascounty.org/animalservices/pets-hurricanes.htm
Before the Storm
If your pet is not already microchipped, it’s a good idea to do so now. Be sure the chip contains all important information relating to them including your contact info and any important medical considerations. You might even consider a smart collar with GPS tracking that may help you to find your furry companion in case of separation.
In addition to your own emergency preparedness kit, having one for your pet is just as important. Items to include: Food and water for at least 5 days, sturdy leash/harness, litter box and litter for cats, band aids, scissors, saline solution for their eyes, garbage bags, blankets, towels, and medications and medical records which should be stored in a waterproof container. A pet first-aid book and photo of your pet are also a good idea.
During the Storm
Even if your pets normally stay outdoors exclusively, you’ll want to bring them inside before the hurricane hits. As the sound of thunder could scare them into finding a hiding spot, know where all of the small and hidden spaces are where they might retreat to and be prepared to search for them.
It’s important that your pets stay with you during the storm; so get them out of their hiding spots. This is also when the pet carrier can come in handy. It provides your them with a safe and secure place to hide from the storm but still be near you.
Find the safest place in the house—somewhere enclosed and away from windows or other glass, where you and your pets can set up camp. Put a few of their favorite toys, bed or blanket, food and water dishes, and other familiar items in that area, to make it feel (and smell) more like home for them.
If you have to evacuate your home, do your best to bring your pets with you. See if you can find a friend to stay with who’s outside the evacuated area and can accommodate both you and your pets. If you have to go to an evacuation center, find out what their policies and restrictions are regarding pets.
Being proactive and planning for the worst may give you a head start before mandatory evacuation is announced. For pet-friendly hotels/motels, call the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 727.464.7200 or during an evacuation, go to www.visitstpeteclearwater.com.
After the Storm
According to Pinellas County, there are post-disaster temporary animal collection sites for stray animals who have been separated from their owners. Unfortunately, the location of these sites are determined based on prevailing conditions. Once the site(s) have been determined and announced, owners are urged to look for their pet at the location nearest their home and where they last saw their pet. Pinellas County Animal Services: 727.582.2600.
Bottom Line: Our pets depend on us for their well-being and at no time is this more apparent than during a natural disaster. That’s why preparedness is essential. Make your preparations now. Be proactive because it can very possibly mean life or death for your pet in an emergency situation. The more prepared you are, the better chance you’ll be able to take care of yourself and your pet during a hurricane.
Florida’s Hurricane History, by Jay Barnes
Florida Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: 1871-2001, by John M. Williams and Iver W. Duedall