Hurricane Irma: How to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Storm

Keep your pet safe during Hurricane Irma.
Keep your pet safe during Hurricane Irma.
Laine Doss
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The latest news on Hurricane Irma isn't great for Miami, with NOAA's 11 a.m. advisory putting Miami in Irma's trajectory.

That means the area is in serious storm-prep mode, with residents making plans to either evacuate or ride out the storm with family. And family, for many Miamians, means both two-legged and four-legged varieties.

Planning for a disaster with a dog or cat (or, in this writer's case, four Chihuahuas) takes a bit of extra planning. First, when shopping for supplies, don't forget items for your furry friends. The pet aisle at Publix remains well stocked even as supplies dwindle in other areas. According to Miami-Dade Animal Services, a good emergency checklist for your pet includes the following:

  • Dry/wet food for at least two weeks
  • Manual can opener for canned food
  • Two-week supply of water
  • Bowls
  • Toys
  • Training pads (even if your dog is housebroken, you won't be walking him during a storm, and the dangers of standing water, debris, and possible downed electrical lines will make walking a dog hazardous to both you and your pet)
  • A litter box and clean litter
  • A two-week supply of any medications your pet might need

In addition, each pet should be wearing a collar with a tag that includes his name and your cell phone number, as well as a rabies tag. If your pet gets out, that could be the only way she will find her way home. If your pet is microchipped, it's a good idea to go online and make sure your address and phone number are accurate.

You should also have leashes and a portable carrier on hand. They are helpful to secure a fearful pet during the storm and provide a quick getaway if you need to evacuate.

Stock up for the storm.
Stock up for the storm.
Laine Doss

Here are a few tips if you're riding out the storm at home:

  • Be sure to bring your pet indoors at the first signs of the storm. Conditions could deteriorate quickly.
  • Close off nooks and crannies where your frightened cat or dog might hide.
  • Place frightened pets in crates or carriers and keep them with you.
  • Use thunder shirts or calming salves on your pet to keep him calm.
  • Now is the time to talk to your vet about using tranquilizers if your pet is overly nervous during a storm.

If you plan to evacuate, bring your pet along:

  • Make a list of pet-friendly hotels in your area. Many of them will waive pet rules during disasters.
  • Keep pets in a carrier. Anxiety, dropping pressure, thunder, and winds all make for unpredictable behaviors in even the calmest cat or dog.
  • Pet owners residing in qualified evacuation zones can participate in pet-friendly evacuation centers. Owners must bring all necessary supplies for their pets, and reservations must be made in advance. Call 311 for a list of pet-friendly shelters in Miami-Dade.

Finally, call friends, family members, your vet, a boarding facility — anything to see if you can find temporary shelter before leaving your pet alone in a house or apartment while a hurricane rages outside. If, however, your pet does escape during the storm, make sure you have a recent picture of your pet and contact animals.miamidade.gov as soon as possible after the storm so workers can assist in reuniting you and your pet. Also, you can look for your pet on sites such as petharbor.com and nextdoor.com.

If you encounter a lost pet after the storm:

  • Try the number on the animal's tag to contact his owner.
  • Take a picture of the pet and post on sites such as petharbor.com and nextdoor.com.
  • Contact Miami-Dade Animal Services at 311.

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