Hurricane season: Be prepared to move pets

storm-clouds-headerThe Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reminds pet owners to think now about how to care for their pets during a hurricane or summer storm.

“Don’t wait until the National Hurricane Center announces that a storm is bearing down on the East Coast or Mid-Atlantic,” advises State Veterinarian Richard Wilkes. “The time to start hurricane planning is now. As you are planning for your family and your farm, remember that planning for your animals is also important.” In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them too. If it’s not safe for you to stay behind then it’s not safe to leave pets behind either.

VDACS suggests the following tips for keeping pets safe:

  • Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier. Consider micro chipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification.
  • Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
  • Keep a pet emergency supply kit, which should include the following:

o   Three-or-more-day supply of food and drinking water

o    Bowls for food and water

o    Current photos and physical description of your pets, including details on markings

o    Medications, vaccination records (especially rabies records) and first aid pet supplies

o    Comfort items such as a toy and blanket

o    Small garbage bags

o    For dogs – a leash, harness and a sturdy carrier large enough to use as a sleeping area

o    For cats – a litter box and litter as well as a sturdy carrier large enough for transport.

If officials call for an evacuation, pet owners should be aware that many evacuation shelters do not accept pets and they must plan their destination in advance. Many hotels, motels, campsites and other facilities around the country now allow pets. Check out AAA or to find a list of those in your area.  Hotels and motels may be willing to waive “no pet” restrictions in an emergency. Keep a list of pet friendly places, including phone numbers, with your disaster supplies. Friends and family members living outside the area may be able to provide shelter too.

Check with your local animal shelter or emergency management office to determine if a pet-friendly emergency shelter will be set up in your location. In the event of a catastrophic event, such as Hurricane Katrina, where mass evacuation would overwhelm local sheltering abilities, the Governor may decide to activate the State Managed Shelter System.  As part of the State Managed Shelter System, VDACS has developed an emergency State Managed Pet Sheltering Plan to ensure that owners and their pets have a safe place to shelter.

For more tips on preparedness plans that include your pets, visit  or


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