Mobile County Emergency Management has asked the Mobile SPCA to once again run the emergency pet shelter in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. The shelter will be set up at the Mobile SPCA office. The "pet" shelter will be opened anytime a "people" shelter is opened. If you are staying in a "people" shelter, your pet will be able to ride out the storm in the "pet" shelter. Unless you are a Mobile SPCA volunteer, you cannot stay with your pet. If you are leaving the area, however, you must take your pet with you or make arrangements with a veterinarian or boarding facility. You can not leave your pet at the "pet" shelter if you are leaving town!
FACT: Hurricanes are a fact of life in Mobile. Other disasters such as hazardous spills usually strike without any warning.
FACT: If you must evacuate in the event of a disaster, then conditions are not only unsafe for you, but unsafe for other living creatures as well.
FACT: You may have the option of waiting out the storm in a public Red Cross shelter, but your pet will not. Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of State health and safety regulations and other considerations. Service animals who assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters.
Why pet owners must plan
If you do not have a disaster plan and wait until the last minute to evacuate, your only choice for refuge will probably be a public shelter where pets are not welcome. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.
If you leave your pets behind, you should prepare your children and other family members for the fact that their pets may not survive or may be lost forever before you are able or permitted to return to your home.
Frightened animals quickly slip out open doors, broken windows or damaged areas of your home left exposed by the storm. Released pets likely will die from exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food or water, or be run over on roads where they also can endanger others. Even normally friendly animals of different species should not be allowed to remain together unattended because the stress of the storm may cause distinct behavioral changes.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES
Develop your written plan now
Having a written disaster plan may mean the difference between life - and death - for you and your pets.
In developing your written disaster plan, obtain evacuation information and preparedness guidelines from the Mobile Emergency Management Office. The office serving Mobile County can be reached by calling 460-8000.
In developing your plan, first, identify your evacuation zone and level to determine if - and when - you would have to evacuate. You can find evacuation route area maps which include storm surge zones.
If you are located in a flood plain area, the decision to evacuate will depend on the category of the storm. In the case of a hurricane, always prepare for one category higher than the one being forecast because a hurricane often increases in strength just before making landfall.
Remember: All mobile home residents must evacuate in the event of a hurricane, regardless of location.
Pick a safe location as close to home as possible as your evacuation site. Long-distance evacuation is not recommended because highways will be crowded. Friends and relatives in a safe area are your best choice. An alternative might be hotels or motels outside the area which are "pet friendly." Check their policies on accepting pets, and any restrictions on number, size or species. Call ahead for reservations.
If you cannot find a safe refuge for you and your pets together, arrange shelter for the animals at a veterinarian office or boarding kennel close to your evacuation location so that you can have as much contact with the pets as possible. You and your pets will fare better if you are together as much as possible. Do not forget to check storm surge zones to make sure that the veterinarian office or boarding kennel is in a safe area.
Be aware and prepare
Begin preparations before the hurricane season which runs June 1 through November 30. You can't be too prepared when the lives of your loving and faithful companions are at stake. Download our Preparing for Disaster brochure. A checklist on the brochure will help you remember to:
- Make sure all your pets have current immunizations and get copies of these records. Take a copy with you if you must evacuate.
- Bring all pets into the house so that you won't have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
- You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a pet-sitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.
- Pets MUST be wearing their current Rabies vaccination tag.
- Photograph each of your pets every year and include these pictures with their immunization records in the space provided on the "Pet Identification" page of the brochure. Make sure to take the photos with you if you must evacuate.
- Take first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses and keep the manuals handy. The same basic principles apply to animals. The Mobile SPCA periodically offers pet first aid seminars. If you cannot attend, ask your vet for an emergency care pamphlet for animals.
- Include a pet first aid kit in your pet survival kit (see back page of the brochure for contents of a pet survival kit.)
- Make sure all your pets have a secure carrier (or collapsible cage for large dogs) as well as collars, leashes and identification tags. Carriers should be large enough for the animals to stand comfortably and turn around. Let your pets become familiar with their carriers ahead of time so they will feel secure and comfortable in case they have to live in them for days - or even weeks - after the storm.
- Mark all your pets' belongings with their identification as well as yours.
- Put together a pet survival kit with the items suggested below.
- If you plan to shelter your pets at a kennel or clinic, call before evacuating to determine if space is available. Allow sufficient time to travel from the kennel to your evacuation location after making certain that your animals are secure. Again, remember to check the storm surge zone maps in the phone book to make sure that the kennel or clinic is in a safe evacuation area.
- If you have an exotic pet, contact local pet stores located in a safe area for assistance in sheltering your pet. Again, be prepared to supply appropriate housing (not glass) for the pet, and other supplies necessary to sustain the pet for at least two weeks.
- Be sure to include sufficient food and potable water to last at least two weeks for all your pets. Store pet food and medications in watertight containers in a cool, dry and dark place. If your water source becomes contaminated, you can purify it by adding two drops of household bleach per quart of water, then mix and seal tightly, and let stand 30 minutes before drinking.
- Any facility you choose to house your pets should be operated by knowledgeable and capable staff, located in a high and dry area, and of sturdy construction with hurricane shutters.
Remember: Throughout the evacuation and the storm, your pets will need reassurance from you. Remain calm, keep as close to their normal routine as possible, and speak to them often in a calm, reassuring voice.
If you can stay at home
- It is just as important to adequately plan for your pets even if you do not have to evacuate. Carriers, collars with proper identification, and leashes should be maintained for your pets at all times.
- Your pets will be most comfortable and secure in their carriers in a safe area of your home until the storm has passed. If they are not secured during the storm and your house is damaged, your pets may escape and become disoriented since normal landmarks and scent trails could be obliterated. If your pets become lost, proper ID will help to ensure their return to you.
- Identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together, including your pets.
- Have medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers.
Remember: If you bring plants into the home before a storm, be careful not to allow pets access to them since many ornamental plants are poisonous.
Your pet survival kit should include the following:
- Collar with tag(s) and a sturdy leash
- Any medications necessary
- Medical records and vaccination information
- A first aid kit
- Carrier for transporting
- A crate for securing your pet inside
- Food (at least a 2 weeks supply)
- Water (at least a 2 weeks supply)
- A manual can opener (if you use cans)
- Ziplock bags for treats, important papers, toys and misc
- Cat litter, liners, scoop and a pan
- Plastic trash bags to handle waste
- Newspaper and paper towels for clean-up
- Brushes and/or combs
- Toys and any special comfort items
- Muzzle if necessary
- Put proper ID on all your pet's belongings
- Pet Identification form completed and a picture of your pet attached
Surviving after the storm
- Proceed with caution, and watch for downed and dangling power lines and other debris which pose real dangers to you and your pets.
- Check your food and water supply for contamination.
- If you are without power, be extremely careful using candles, oil lamps and generators, particularly around pets. Never leave candles or oil lamps unattended.
- Generators create carbon monoxide and will kill. Never put a pet near a running generator or in an enclosed area with one - like a garage.
- Walk your pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home.
COASTAL FLOODING — Flooding along low-lying coastal areas which may occur even though the storm generating the flooding is not a direct threat.
TROPICAL STORM WATCH — Be on the alert that specific areas may be threatened by tropical storm conditions.
TROPICAL STORM WARNING — Tropical storm conditions, including sustained winds from 39 the 73 miles per hour, are expected to hit specific areas within 24 hours.
HURRICANE WATCH — Be on the alert that a hurricane or hurricane condition pose a threat to a specific area, generally within 36 hours.
HURRICANE WARNING — A hurricane is expected in a specific area within 24 hours. All hurricane precautions should be complete!!