In case of emergency, experts agree pets should be part of the evacuation plan. “Don’t leave your pets behind,” said Ed Fritz, executive director of the Southampton Town Animal Shelter. “They’re your family and you should consider them and take them away.”
Mr. Fritz added that important lessons were learned during Hurricane Katrina, after the disaster left many pets stranded, lost, and homeless. “Many people who live in areas prone to hurricanes are used to false alarms. They think, ‘Okay, we’ll be back in a day.’ But we don’t know what’s going to happen—hurricanes are unpredictable—so take your pets with you.”
Both the Southampton Town Animal Shelter and the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in East Hampton are working on emergency plans for individuals unable to move their pets; residents are urged to contact both organizations if they need help, Mr. Fritz said.
Other tips to keep Fido and Fluffy safe include obtaining a rescue sticker to let people know pets are inside the home, and arranging a safe haven for pets in the event of evacuation, should it be impossible to bring them along.
With not all Red Cross shelters allowing pets, it is important to find a boarding kennel or pet friendly emergency shelter; or to bring them along to a motel where pets are welcome with their human counterparts.
Locally, pets are not allowed at emergency Red Cross public shelters. There is limited availability at the Suffolk Fire Academy in Yaphank, the Long Island Ducks Stadium and other county facilities.
While assembling an emergency hurricane kit for the family, remember pets, said Mr. Fritz, who added the pack should include carriers—ideally one for each pet, labeled with the pet’s name and owner contact information, food for at least five days, bottled water, disposable litter, a litter box, paper towels, disposable garbage bags for cleanup, disinfectant, extra collars and leashes, blankets, recent photos of pets and ID tags in case they become lost or separated, pet feeding dishes, a pet first aid kit, medicine, veterinarian information and small toys.
Vaccinations should be up to date and micro-chipping is recommended, so pets can be located in the event they are separated from their owners during an emergency situation.
In addition, residents are advised to always bring pets indoors at the first sign of a storm or disaster; pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
Smaller pets and birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier and a spray bottle should be packed to moisten a bird’s feathers with warm water.
According to Roy Gross, chief of department of the Suffolk County SPCA, “Everybody should have a checklist for disaster preparedness for pets.” It’s a really good idea to have a “go-bag” not only for humans, but for their pets, as well, he said. In the need of immediate evacuation, residents won’t have to scurry to find essentials. A tool box, cooler or Tupperware makes a good “go bag” he said; all bags should be labeled and checked periodically to be sure a two week supply of medication, with dosage instructions, are current.
Included in supplies should be up to two weeks’ worth of food, with a spoon, disposable gloves for handling waste, a crate and bedding for pets large enough for them to stand up and turn around comfortably, bottled water, a manual can opener, pet dishes and medications, paper towels and newspaper for emergency litter, gauze rolls, and foods to meet any dietary restrictions.
Residents should have a written family disaster plan, and include pets on the list. Also critical are pet identification tags and medical records in a Ziploc bag; many pet friendly shelters will not allow animals without records.
Pets also need their own blankets “to make them feel more at home when in a strange place,” Mr. Gross said. To find pet friendly hotels, motels, and boarding facilities, go to petswelcome.com.
If pets are unavoidably left at home because they are stranded when a resident can’t get home, detailed instructions should be left for rescue workers; they should be included with a pet that is boarded or kept with a friend.
But, he added, if a resident needs to evacuate, “Do not leave pets at home.”
To check for open, pet friendly shelters, residents should call Suffolk County’s Fire Rescue Emergency Service or listen to the radio for information.