Orange County Urges Pet Owners to Prepare Ahead of Storm Season

Community & Services Public Health & Safety

It’s important to have a written disaster plan that includes the family pet.

Rain or shine, no matter the season, pet owners should be prepared with extra supplies and a plan of action for their pets in the event of an emergency.

“It is vital for pet owners to have a written disaster plan that includes their pets,” said Dil Luther, division manager of Orange County Animal Services. “In Florida, of course, we immediately think of hurricanes as the most likely scenario. Under no circumstances, however, should pets be left behind.”

To help prepare your pets for hurricane season, and all year, Orange County Animal Services offers these tips:

Getting Ready

First, schedule an appointment to talk to your pet’s veterinarian about planning for a disaster. Ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and secure a copy of their medical records.

Assemble a “Pet Disaster Kit.” The kit and supplies should be stored in an accessible location in the event someone else has to transport your pet. Keep the kit updated and available. Suggested items include:

  • One-gallon zipper storage bag to hold the contents
  • Sandwich-size bags for pet treats and a small toy
  • Pet Health Record (each pet should display a current rabies tag at all times)
  • Current picture of your pet (also include a picture of you and your pet) with your name, address and phone numbers
  • Collar and leash for dogs, and an adjustable collar for cats
  • An extra identification tag
  • Any special information on your pet

Since you may not be home when an evacuation order is announced, find a trusted friend who is willing to pick your pets up and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where the pets should be, know where your disaster supplies and kits are located and have a key to your home. Share your plan with friends and relatives.

If forced to evacuate your home, your pet should NOT be left behind. As the disaster approaches, bring all pets in the house so that you won’t have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry. Pets are not permitted in Red Cross shelters (except for service dogs for people with special needs). Plan to go to a friend or relative’s home, or a hotel/motel where your pet is welcome.

Disaster Supplies for Pets

  • Pet carrier or crate for each pet, sized appropriately so your pet can stand and turn around comfortably. Write your name, address and phone number on the carrier and include additional contact information for someone outside the area.
  • Two-week supply of pet food, water, medications and a manual can opener
  • Food and water bowls
  • Cat litter and a litter box
  • Newspapers, plastic bags, cleaner and disinfectants to handle pet waste
  • A cotton sheet to cover the carrier or crate to keep the pet calm
  • First-Aid Kit (Ask your veterinarian for the supplies appropriate for your pet.)

After the Disaster

  • Your pet will probably be disoriented and frightened. Be patient and understanding; the situation is just as traumatic to them as to you.
  • Consult your veterinarian if any behavior or physical problems arise.
  • Be aware of fallen power lines, scattered debris, flooding and misplaced wildlife, all of which can be a danger to your pet.

“Do not wait until a disaster strikes to begin researching,” Luther said. “Start now and have supplies on hand. You should also have several evacuation options for your family and pets.”

For more information on how to prepare your pet for a disaster, contact your veterinarian and visit Orange County Animal Services is Central Florida’s largest pet rescue and adoption center. Last year, Animal Services received nearly 20,000 animals at its shelter. For more than 40 years, the agency’s mission has been to protect the citizens and animals of Orange County. Its vision is to give abandoned and neglected pets a second chance to live long, healthy lives in safe, loving homes.

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