Want to keep your pet safe this hurricane season? Then start planning and preparing now.
As the shelter coordinator of the Humane Society in Tampa, Pam Backer knows what to expect for storm season ó she also knows what pet owners often fail to do, or donít even think about, before the hurricane arrives.
"If you wait until the last minute, youíre not going to take care of your pet because everyoneís resources will be stretched," Backer said.
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First, thereís the obvious steps:
ē Know which evacuation shelters in your area accept animals.
ē Find out which hotels in non-evacuation zones welcome pets, or find a friend or relative in a non-evacuation zone who will house you and your pet.
ē Keep all of your petsí vaccination records and microchip information in a ziplock bag or other waterproof casing.
ē Have a crate or carrier ready that is easy to travel with, that your pet will be comfortable in.
ē Set aside at least a weekís worth of food and water for your pet, in addition to your own water supply.
ē Get a cooler and ice packs ready to keep any refrigerated medications cold, and keep a weekís worth of any needed medications ready.
But the most important thing pet owners should do, she said, is get them a microchip long before hurricane season. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay and the SPCA Tampa Bay both offer this service for dogs and cats at a cost of about $25. They often offer specials or charity events for those who might struggle to afford that expense.
Beyond the microchip, Backer suggests making sure that your petsí tags have the most up-to-date contact information. In the aftermath of a storm, it may not be possible for the animalís chip to be scanned right away.
As a back-up plan, Backer also suggests using a permanent marker to write your cell number on the inside of your dog or catís collar.
"Itís important to think of things you wouldnít expect to happen," she said. "Say, your dog gets loose and runs across a chain-link fence and the tag pops off."
She also recommends keeping several recent photos of your pet on hand to show others what they really look like. If you and your pup get separated and they havenít had a haircut in awhile, searchers may not be able to tell the well-groomed dog in that photo is the scruffy one theyíve just rescued.
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Backer said to be sure to talk through these plans months ahead of time ó not the night you get evacuation orders.
Pet owners in panic mode often make poor choices. Some left their animals behind in cages or tied up. Some tried to drop animals off at shelters that werenít properly equipped. Often, pets need to be evacuated, too.
"If you leave your pet tied up or in a crate alone, theyíre sitting ducks," Backer said. "At least give them a fighting chance; donít force them to drown."
Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.