Preparing your pet needs before a disaster makes life easier for all.
As I write this column Tropical Storm Erika is twirling in the Atlantic Ocean. She probably won't require us to evacuate our home, but one never really knows. Floyd taught us this in September of 1999. At his strongest Floyd was a category 4, just shy of a Category 5, hurricane and headed for our section of the east coast. At the last minute, within 90 miles of shore, he turned away and hit the Bahamas at peak strength. Hurricane Charley in August of 2004 was projected to make landfall in Tampa but came ashore south at Port Charlotte, catching most off guard. Predict all you want but in the end it's totally up to Mother Nature.
The point of this is it is important to be prepared, and not just for hurricanes. Flagler and Volusia county residents have also had to evacuate for wildfires, sometimes a small area, or, as in 1998, large sections of both counties.
Whatever the disaster, it is important to have a plan for your animals starting with an evacuation bag. This bag, or plastic box, should be packed with daily items; a small bag of litter, extra leashes, doggie bags, their food (and manual can opener if needed). Copies of your pet's veterinary records showing current vaccinations, necessary medications, a favorite blanket, a couple of toys, a couple large and empty soft drink bottles or gallon milk jugs (you can fill with water from home before you leave), and a crate.
If your pet is on daily medication, now is the time to make sure you have enough. Don't wait until you are giving him the last pill in the bottle. Remember, if you are evacuating there is a good chance your veterinarian's office will be closed.
Most hotels will accept pets during disaster evacuations. In my travels I have found that more hotels are accepting pets as the norm. Hotels may ask for proof of vaccinations, rabies tags are not enough, they need to see the record.
This is also the time to check your pet's identification. All of my pets have microchips with our information and cell phone number, and our daughter's phone number. If we should get separated, say something happens to us, I know that Kelley would get a call about the animals. Whatever type of identification your pet has, please make sure all of the information is current.
Emergency preparations aren't just for major, televised disasters. They are also helpful in the event you are unable to care for your pet. Having a notebook of pertinent information that includes when and how much they are fed (animals like schedules), medication and dosage information, and the veterinarian's phone number, will ensure that a friend or family member will be able to care for your pet in your absence.
I will close this with an obvious statement, but after the fires of 1998 one I feel needs to be made. When you evacuate, take your pet with you. Do not leave him at home. There is no way of knowing how long you will be away and there is no one in the county who will be able to check on them for you. In our house my husband knows the “life boat seat drill”-- mom and pets first, and if there's still room -- he gets to go.