Pet owners should have a plan for their animals long before a hurricane threatens.
Waiting until the last minute only will make a difficult situation worse.
Most public shelters do not allow pets. Even though it may be hard to part with your favorite pet, the best option is to find a hurricane pet shelter.
During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, scores of people refused to evacuate without their pets, fearing the animals wouldn't survive if left behind.
As a result, many people died because they refused to leave their animals and an estimated 600,000 pets died or were left homeless.
Public shelters that do accept pets generally only take dogs and cats, although Hillsborough accepts birds and ferrets. If you own any other type of animal, you will have to make other arrangements.
Remember, when taking your pet to a shelter, store a photo of you and your pet in case you are separated. Also, take along vaccination paperwork, which is required by shelters and boarding facilities. Label items with your name and your pet's name and bring a carrier or crate large enough for your pet to move around.
These pet-friendly shelters accept first come, first served, as space is limited. There is no early registration.
If you absolutely cannot part ways with your pet, consider evacuating to a hotel or motel that accepts animals.
For more information, contact your local animal shelter. For Pinellas County, call (727) 582-2150; Citrus County, call (352) 746-8400; Hillsborough County, call (813) 744-5660; Pasco County, call (813) 929-1212; and Hernando County, call (352) 796-5062.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect that Hillsborough does not accept early registration for pets. In fact, it is a good idea for people with pets to call ahead now to see what their county's policy is.