I just moved to Largo with my 80-pound golden retriever, Max. What should I do to prepare him for hurricane season? Catherine M., Largo
Big or small, our pets are family. We owe it to them to keep them safe during disasters, which can occur anytime. I asked Connie Brooks, director of operations of SPCA Tampa Bay and chairwoman of the Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) for advice:
Where to go
Have a safe place to take your pets. Some things to consider:
• Do you have friends in high places? If staying with friends or family, ensure your pet is welcome, too. Be a good guest: Have a crate handy for every four-legged guest.
• Do your research now. Find hotel accommodations outside Pinellas in a high and dry place. Learn the hotel's rules regarding pets. Reserve early; you can always cancel.
• As a last resort, Pinellas County has just three pet-friendly shelters. Space is limited and preregistration is required.
Microchip your pet(s) and ensure that microchip information is updated.
Try to include an out-of-state phone number, one that may not be affected by the storm.
Prepare a portable kit of pet disaster supplies.
Every item should be marked with contact information and be easy to transport.
Your kit should include:
• Medications and medical records (in a waterproof container).
• First aid kit.
• Leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to prevent escape and help transport.
• Current pet photos in case pets get lost.
• Food and water, bowls, cat litter and pan, and can opener.
• Plastic bags for waste and paper towels for cleanup.
• If you will be separated from your pet, have information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems and veterinarian name and phone number.
• Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.
Listen, be ready
At first storm warning, bring all pets inside. Assemble carriers and have your evacuation kit ready to go. Pet collars should have up-to-date and backup identification. After the event, give your pets time to settle back into their routines.
Paulette Keller is a SPCA Tampa Bay volunteer. To submit a question, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Photos will be used as space allows and cannot be returned.