Heartbreaking images of beloved pets left behind by evacuating owners during Hurricane Katrina underscored the need to think now about where your pet will spend the storm: At home with you? At the home of a friend? At your veterinarian's office or a kennel? In a pet-friendly hotel or public shelter?
Here are things you can do now to start getting your pet ready for hurricane season and some tips to remember for storm day and beyond.
• Start by having your pet microchipped so it can be identified and reunited with you if you are separated. A collar with tags can be lost during a storm.
• Get your pet acclimated to a locking crate or carrier. If your pet connects the carrier only with an unwelcome trip to the vet, put the carrier out now and put some treats in it so your pet becomes familiar with it and is less resistant to entering the carrier on hurricane day.
• On storm day, keep your pet in the carrier with a towel draped over it to create a secure, denlike place. That provides a comforting atmosphere for pets, which often sense that something's wrong before humans do.
A frightened pet may bolt for its secret hiding place. If you decide abruptly that you need to evacuate, you may not have time to search the house for your pet.
• Keep a small pet in the carrier when you get into the car. Wind, rain or flying debris may cause you to drop a pet you're carrying, and then it runs away.
• See the checklist accompanying this story for what to take if you leave home.
Don't leave your pet behind alone if you evacuate. Imagine how your pet would react if the roof blew off or a wall blew down.
One of the lessons of Katrina is that an evacuation may last far longer than you expect. You may think you'll be gone only overnight. You could be gone for days or weeks. A pet you leave behind could starve or be injured.
Katrina underscored the need for shelters that accept pets. But those are hard to find. See the box for locations in the Tampa Bay area.
Some hotels relax their no-pet rules during disasters. Visit www.petswelcome.com or www.floridapets.net for lists of pet-friendly lodging, or watch for news reports as a hurricane draws near for updates on local hotels that welcome pets.
Your vet or kennel may offer accommodations during hurricanes. Now is the time to find out what's available and make your pet's reservation.
Before the storm, take a picture of your pet alone and one of you with the pet. If your pet should be lost, the photo will be useful in making fliers and describing your pet to animal shelter workers. The picture of you with your pet will help reassure workers that the pet you say is yours really is.
Be attentive to your pet even after the storm blows through. Streets and yards may be full of debris. Nails, broken glass, splinters and other objects can injure a pet. Fences that kept a pet in place may be blown down.
Don't let your pet walk through puddles or play in creeks or gutters. The water may be energized by downed power lines or contaminated with oil, gasoline or sewage. The current may be swift enough to knock down and drown an animal.
It's easy for animals to become disoriented, and there will be lots of unusual smells and things to explore that may be hazardous. Wild animals displaced by the storm may wander into residential areas: anything from raccoons and snakes to fire ants. Keep your pet away from them.
Information from Times files was used in this report.