By Libby Cook-Toppan, SPCA
The best way to keep your pets safe during a hurricane begins with being prepared ahead of the storm season. One of the most important considerations is whereyou can safely accommodate your pets so that you don’t add unnecessary stress and anxiety trying to figure that out at the last minute.
Remember that your pets depend on you for their safety and well-being. As part of pet ownership, it is your responsibility to ensure their safety during storms. If your pets live outside it is extremely important to plan ahead and choose a safe space for them inside your home. If you don’t have a tiled area you can protect your floors with plastic drop cloths or tarps. Garden sheds are not appropriate as they are not built to withstand storm force winds. A cellar is an alternative to inside the house, but only if it’s not in danger of flooding. Keeping pets separate from you at a time when they will likely be most frightened is not recommended.
In the same way that you should have an emergency kit for yourself, it is extremely important to have an emergency kit for your pets. Your pet emergency kit should be stored alongside your emergency kit and should include the following:Clean water, enough for a week
- Plenty of food, including treats and snacks (can opener if needed)
- Extra bowls, because washing dirty bowls may be difficult
- Towels and bedding
- Pee pads, cat litter/pan, newspapers
- Basic medical kit: gauze, wound spray/ointment, cotton balls
- Crate/carrier and/or harness/collar and leash
- Photo of your pets, should you become separated
Preparation ahead of time should also include ensuring your pets are microchipped and your contact details at your vet are up-to-date. Should your pets become separated from you, or become lost during or after the storm, microchips can be an effective method to connect your pets to you.
During the storm try to stay calm and comfort your pets. Simply being close by, holding or stroking your pets, can be a tremendous comfort to them. According to Wanda Merling, deputy director for animal cruelty and response for the Humane Society of the United States, “Roaring thunder, lightning, heavy rain and high winds can stir fear in many animals, causing extreme anxiety not only for pets, but also their owners who must manage this stress.” Merling recommends having favourite toys ready along with a familiar blanket or bed to comfort pets. ”Stay with them as well. Just the sound of your voice is often calming,” advises Accuweather.
When the eye passes over you may have a few short minutes for a quick “potty” break for bigger dogs who prefer not to go to the bathroom inside. Keep your dogs on the leash at all times in case of dangerous debris, such as broken glass and downed power lines. Do not let your cats out at this time because you may not be able to get them back inside in time for the rest of the storm to pass.
After the storm has completely passed, do not let your pets out until you are sure it’s safe for them. Survey the area inside and outside your home for potential dangers such as sharp objects, downed power lines and other hazards. If your pets are typically housed outside, be sure to check all structures for damage and leaks and ensure that these are fixed before use. Do not give or allow your animals to drink contaminated water. In the same way that water borne bacteria and contaminants can make you sick, so too can they make our pets ill. Contact your vet immediately if your pets show signs of illness: soreness, lethargy, diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Hurricanes can be very frightening for you and for your pets but simple preparations ahead of time can go a long way to lessen the anxiety and keep your pets safe and secure.