If you’ve lived in Florida long enough, you’ve probably weathered a hurricane or tropical storm (except for you Jacksonvillians who inevitably avert disaster every time…). As I type, the panhandle is getting ready to take a beating from Tropical Storm Claudette who is scheduled to hit the west coast of Florida early Monday morning. Though this storm may only warrant rain boots and a little extra caution, it’s probably only the beginning to a slew of storms headed our way. (Well, we can’t expect to live on a sunny beach all year round…)
Everyone has heard the hurricane preparedness routine: know your evacuation route; keep gas in your car and cash on hand; have your home supplied with food, water and other necessities; and be prepared to leave. We’ve all been though this routine before. And though we’ve executed the steps many times, not many of us have actually had to evacuate our homes. But if it were necessary to pack up and seek safety, do you know what you would do with your dogs? Most Red Cross shelters won’t allow pets. If you’re going to a friend or family home, will your dogs be welcome or safe? What about hotels? Do you know which chains have a pet-friendly policy? There are lots of things to consider when you’re getting ready to survive the big one with four-legged children running around.
I’ve found this helpful website that lists pet policies of major hotel chains:
An evacuation at my house would likely go something like this:
The packing doesn’t take too long because there is not room in my tiny car for 2 people, 4 dogs and much else. Hounds are loaded up first because they are situated in the back behind prison bars for their safety and our sanity. (I just hate to think of the long drive north with 4 dogs – 2 of which are notoriously bad riders. Read: Tetsy the pooper and Paco the seat-belt gnawer). Misha gets the entire backseat to herself and our bags are stuffed at her feet. Jerritt sits in the passenger seat trying to console a frantic Chloe stricken with storm anxiety. (And when she’s anxious, she’s not content to being held and comforted, Chloe must be at the highest possible point, which she usually considers to be the top of my head.) Paco is also suffering from storm anxiety. Though, thankfully, he’s not trying to sit on my head, he IS crying his high-pitched “heee heee heeeee” and pacing in tight circles in a small area made smaller by the occupancy of another hound dog. Tetsy is barking, crying and carrying on, not because he’s scared of the storm but because he feeds off of Paco’s nervousness. Before we’ve pulled out of the driveway, Misha will have figured out that the bags at her feet contain our nourishment for the time to come and Jerritt will have to juggle keeping Chloe from clamoring to get atop my head and Misha from rooting through our stash. By the time we all hit the interstate (if I’m lucky to have made it that far), I’m proposing that we just go home and weather it out because I can’t take this three-ring circus much longer. We head home and though Jerritt and I must still endure Chloe and Paco’s insistence the world is ending, at least we have the room to get small reprieves and thus retain our sanity as we hope 150mph winds don’t tear down our home.
Though I hope to never realize the potential of an evacuation with 4 dogs, just in case, here’s what I pack in my Pet Emergency Kit:
-pet-waste clean-up baggies (yes, you have to be a responsible pet owner and scoop the poop even in the event of a natural disaster)
-food and water bowls
-harnesses, collars and leashes
-copies of vaccinations in a Ziploc baggie
-Chloe’s crate (it’s a good idea to take travel crates if you’ve got them. This is not only for the safety and comfort of your dog, but also in case you have to stay somewhere where pets aren’t usually welcome. In extenuating circumstances, you may be able convince your lodger to let you keep your dog with you if they can be confined to their crate.)
-instruction sheets on each dog (picture, name, age, breed, vet name and number, vaccination dates, feeding schedule, allergies, habits and contact info) I’ve done this in case I hurriedly have to leave the dogs with someone. Of course, this is the last resort but still a possibility. Some shelters will board dogs for natural disasters and it’s good to provide them with as much info as possible. While my worksheets may be a little extensive for your needs, you should at least have pictures of your dogs in case you’re separated.
-and I’ll make sure the dogs are wearing up-to-date ID and rabies tags (do this even if your dog is micro-chipped. It will make the reunion faster if your dog becomes lost)
Even if you think you’ll only be leaving for a day or two, never leave your pets behind to fend for themselves. After Hurricane Katrina, many pets were left wandering the streets and helplessly locked behind closed doors. Many were never reunited with their owners. The ASPCA says, “if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.” Take your pets with you or leave them with a responsible caregiver to ensure that after the clouds have cleared, your and your dog will have many sunny days ahead of you.