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Shelter your animals from stress, storm

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 or 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.


Pet-friendly shelters

• Pinellas County: Oak Grove Middle School, 1370 S Belcher Road, Clearwater; Thurgood Marshall Middle School, 3901 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg; Dunedin Middle School, 70 Patricia Ave., Dunedin. These shelters will accommodate more than 700 pets total (cats and dogs only). Preregistration required: Online, go to, click on "Departments A-Z," then on "Animal Services"; or call (727) 582-2150. Visit for a list of local hotels/motels that take pets.

• Pasco: Pine View Middle School, 5334 Parkway Blvd., Land O'Lakes. Preregistration required: Call Animal Services at (727) 834-3216 or (813) 929-1212 or visit Space for 200 cats, 100 dogs; owners may take shelter across the street at Pine View Elementary.

• Hernando County: D.S. Parrott Middle School, 19220 Youth Drive, Brooksville. Space for 172 people, 168 dogs and 116 cats. No exotics. Preregistration available but not required; call (352) 796-5062 for information.

• Hillsborough County: Burnett Middle School, south of Interstate 4 in Seffner, has space for 200 pets and owners. Sickles High School, 7950 Gunn Highway, Tampa, has space for 200 pets and owners. No exotics. No reservations necessary.

Survival kit

For your pets, make sure you have:

• Proper ID, collar and rabies tag/license.

• Vaccination paperwork. Make sure your pets have had all their shots within the last 12 months. Pet-friendly public shelters and boarding facilities will require proof of vaccinations.

• Carrier or cage (large enough for your pet to move around).

• Leash.

• Ample food supply (at least two weeks).

• Water and food bowls.

• Medication(s) and specific care instructions in a waterproof container. This includes regular medications such as heartworm pills or flea sprays, as well as prescription drugs.

• First aid kit with remedies for cuts, bites and infections.

• Newspapers, cat litter, scoop, plastic trash bags for handling waste.

• Proper ID on all belongings.

• A comfort item, such as a favorite toy or blanket, and familiar treats.

• Non-electric can opener.

• Photo of you and your pet.

Shelter your animals from stress, storm 05/16/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2008 10:52am]
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