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Hurricane Preparation

To keep pets safe, decide where you'll go now if you have to evacuate before storm


Published:   |   Updated: July 9, 2013 at 09:19 AM

One of the first things that Lisa Puskas did when she moved to St. Pete Beach six years ago was to create a hurricane evacuation plan for her dogs.
 
The owner of four Ibizan hounds, Puskas had weathered several hurricanes when she lived on Long Island, but living on the Intracoastal Waterway in Pinellas County brought extra worry. So she and her boyfriend, Nick Pusta, made a list of what they needed to do to keep their dogs safe should a hurricane head their way.
 
Along with collecting food and water – Lisa cooks for the dogs, so she keeps an ample amount of food ready in the freezer – and compiling health records, the preparations included buying a new car.
 
Nick traded his sports car for a four-wheel-drive SUV that more comfortably fits four large dogs, their food, toys and bedding as well as two adults and their needs.
 
“Our main concern is the dogs,” says Lisa. “They can't protect themselves. We have to make sure that they are as safe as possible.”
 
Over the years, the plan has remained the same except for one thing – the evacuation destination.
 
For a long time, the couple intended to head north to Brooksville to Nick's parents' house, but those plans have changed now that Nick's Dad has moved to the Bay area following the death of his wife.
 
“Now we'll head to a hotel that's not in the path,'' Lisa says.
 
Having raised and showed dogs for many years, Lisa is familiar with spending time in hotels with her dogs.
 
She suggests bringing familiar bedding that the dogs can rest upon, as well as chew toys for them to keep busy with.
 
“The bedding smells like home, so that helps to keep them comfortable, and chew toys are wonderful – especially for puppies. It gives them something to keep them busy.”
 
And she notes that the couple keeps extra leashes and collars in their garage, within arm's reach of the car.
 
“That way they're handy – you always have them right there if you need to leave quickly. You have to be prepared for everything – your dogs, your family – depend on you.”
 
Hurricane evacuation plans also were on the minds of Ben Moehnert and his wife, Cassie, when they moved to Florida from Cleveland six years ago.
 
“The thought of a hurricane was so scary to us that we knew we needed to be prepared,” says the adoption services manager at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay in Tampa.
 
So the owners of four dogs, two cats and two cockatiels figured out how much food they'd need to take, how much water was needed, checked licenses and health records and made sure microchip information was current.
 
“Just like with people, you have to have an emergency plan for your pets,'' says Moehnert.
 
“One of the first things people need to do is decide where they'll go. If they don't have family or friends to stay with, then they need to find out what shelters are pet-friendly.”
 
But pet owners should choose a pet-friendly shelter as a last resort, says Kevin Mallory, acting manager of Pasco County Animal Services.
 
Pasco has one pet-friendly shelter – the Mike Fasano Hurricane Shelter in Hudson – and space is at a premium there, he notes.
 
“We have room for about a hundred dogs and 200 cats,” he says, adding that owners should have shot records, food, water, leashes, collars, identification and cages for any animal they bring into the shelter.
 
And pet owners must be prepared to stay with and care for their pets during the storm.
 
It's best to make your plans and get an emergency kit together long before a storm threatens, say the experts.
 
Gather food, water, toys, bedding and health records.
 
And be sure to have your rabies and other vaccines current.
 
“If you're going to a public shelter, you'll be with a lot of other animals,” says Mallory. “You want to be sure that your animals are protected.”
 
Also, the following websites are among those that have information on pet-friendly accommodations: www.officialpethotels.com and www.petfriendlyhotels.com.
 
Finally, the American Society for the Protection of Animals offers a free pet safety pack that includes a window sticker that will alert emergency personnel to animals inside your home. It also has a magnet with the telephone number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Check the website at www.aspca.org to order a free pack.
 
For more information


Check the following websites for more information on hurricane preparedness for your pet. The county websites also have pet-registration forms for pet-friendly shelters in counties where registration is preferred.
 
• www.hillsboroughcounty.org/emergency/
• www.pascoemergencymanagement.com/
 www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/
 www.polkfire.net/en-us/emergencymanagement/disasterpreparedness/dontforgetpets.aspx
 www.mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/public-safety/emergency-management.html
 www.humanesocietytampa.org
 
Consider including the following items in your pet's survival kit:
• Proper identification
• Immunization records
• County license rabies tag
• Food and water (a two weeks' supply)
• A carrier or portable kennel
• Medications in a water-tight container
• Muzzle, collar and leash
• Manual can opener
• Current photo of you and your pet (with pet's identifying marks noted)
• Feeding and water bowls
• Favorite toys and blanket
• Cat litter/pan and scoop
• Grooming items
• Plastic bags to handle waste
 
 
Source: Pinellas County Emergency Management, Manatee County Government

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