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Prepare pets before an evacuation
Extension advice
Ashley Hoppers ext agent
Ashley Hoppers is UGA Extension Service agent in Liberty County.

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season kicked off with Tropical Storm Alberto, and storms that are more powerful are anticipated as the season progresses. The best way to ensure the safety of your family is to be prepared with a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan includes your pets. Being prepared can save lives, both human and animal.

When making an emergency preparedness plan, common sense goes a long way. If it is not safe for you to stay in your home during an emergency, it’s not safe for your pets either. 

During your disaster preparedness planning, there are many things to consider, including supplies for your pet either in your emergency kit or in an emergency kit assembled just for your pet. 

An area where many families struggle when facing an evacuation is finding lodging that accommodates both them and their fury companions, as many hotels and shelters do not accept animal guests, unless they are registered service animals. With the exception of service animals that assist people with disabilities, most Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets either.

Being prepared means not waiting for a mandatory evacuation before you start making lodging arrangements out of town. By that point, hotels will be flooded with calls and the roads will be beyond crowded. 

You can avoid this stressful situation by investing a little time before the emergency occurs. Be proactive and call ahead to learn which hotels and motels along your planned evacuation route will accept pets during an emergency or disaster situation. 

Once you know which places can accommodate families with pets, take the next step and call ahead for reservations if you know you evacuation may be a possibility. Ask if no pet policies could be waived in an emergency situation. 

During this planning phase, you should also determine which friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters or veterinarians could care for your animals in the event of an emergency. Prepare a list with phone numbers.

Another thing to consider is that while your animals may be more comfortable together, you must be prepared to house them separately. During an emergency, your pets may also be anxious and stressed. 

A good way to help get you and your pets ready for evacuation is to include your pets in evacuation drills so that they become used to entering and traveling in their carriers. This can be particularly helpful with cats, which may only enter their carrier when being taken to the vet for an annual checkup. 

When traveling, it is also imperative you are certain your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations. 

Hurricane season is here, so do not wait – call your veterinarian this week and request a copy of your pet’s most recent medical records. If your pet is missing a rabies tag, request a new one. File these essential documents in an easily accessible location inside your pet’s emergency kit.

Unfortunately, some pets do not travel well. Rather than being stuck in a car for hours with a scared, wailing cat, talk to your veterinarian about medications your pet might need to reduce anxiety or travel sickness symptoms. Also, speak with your veterinarian about testing them on your pet in advance to ensure that your pet does not suffer any adverse side effects. You can also consider having your pet “microchipped” by your veterinarian.

Lastly, here are some important items to include in your pet’s emergency kit:

• Copies of medical records, including name and number of your veterinarian.

• Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems.

• Medications, food, drinking water, bowl.

• Manual can opener if you pet eats canned food.

• A first aid kit.

• Photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. 

• Pet kennels, beds and toys.

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