Preparing Pets and Livestock for Hurricane Season Prepare your pets for a hurricane

Original article by: Wendy Burton, Former Bradford County Extension Agent

(Revised by Tim Wilson, Bradford County Livestock Agent and Dr. Greg Christy, FDACS; May 2013)

Hurricane season is once again upon us and we have to ask ourselves how are we going to keep our family members safe and what precautions are we going to take?  Many households include at least one animal that is generally regarded as a member of the family.  So now we must not only think about our human counterparts, but about those fuzzy, four legged types as well.  Whether they are dogs, cats, horses, cows, or any other type of companion animal, they are also in danger when hurricane type weather persists.  Having an action plan for your family and your pets is essential and knowing how to implement it can make evacuation methods much calmer.

Dr. Greg Christy, D.V.M., Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Emergency Programs Veterinarian, suggests the following tips for preparing for the Hurricane Season.

  • Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check pet policies and consider making reservations if you think you may have to evacuate. You can always cancel.
  • Check with friends and relatives outside the risk area to see if they would shelter you and your animals if needed.
  • Make a list of boarding facilities and vet offices that board animals in times of disaster and include 24-hour contact numbers.
  • All pets should wear a well fitting collar or harness that includes the pets name, your name, your phone number, and an additional contact number if you cannot be reached. (An easy way to do this is to use a plastic baggie with the information enclosed and tape it on the harness with duct tape or another type of tape that will withstand water.)
  • Prepare a disaster kit to take with you. A waterproof container should include:
    • Medications and copies of medical records, if needed.
    • First Aid kit
    • Leashes, food and water for at least seven days, bowls, chew toys, cat litter and box, and a familiar blanket.
    • Current photos of you and the animal and descriptions.
  • Carriers for all pets are also a great idea if you must use shelters, since this keeps your animals safe and comfortable.
  • The best place for large animals such as horses and cows is out in the fieldModify fencing and open gates so that animals may move to high ground during flooding and to low lying areas during high winds.
  • Keep horses and livestock out of barns that are not safe.
  • If you have boats, feed troughs, or other large containers, fill them with water to keep them from blowing away and this will also serve as a water supply.
  • Prepare a disaster kit similar to the one listed above. Make sure you include the following in a waterproof container:
    • Coggins tests, vet papers, medical history and conditions, along with emergency numbers. A photograph of you and the animal also helps establish ownership if they get lost.
    • Keep halters ready with the following information:  Horse’s name, your name, phone number and additional contact number if you cannot be reached.
    • Basic First Aid Kit for scrapes, etc.

Pet Evacuation:

  • People should not leave their pets behind when they evacuate because the animals can be injured, lost or killed.  Returning to a home after a hurricane may be restricted.  It may be days or weeks before someone could check on pets left behind.
  • Keep ID tags and vaccinations up to date.
  • Prepare a pet evacuation kit, including food and water for at least a week, a manual can opener, medications, medical/vaccination records, a pet carrier, and bedding. 
  • If possible, make arrangements in advance for evacuation with pets. Know where you can shelter with your pets along your evacuation route.
  • Evacuate 2-3 days prior to hurricane landfall to avoid traffic delays and full shelters and hotels
  • Contact hotels and motels along your evacuation route to check policies on accepting pets and keep the list handy. 

Horses Evacuation:

  • Keep vaccinations and Coggins tests current.
  • If possible, make arrangements in advance for evacuation of horses. Know where you can take your horses for shelter along your evacuation route.
  • Make sure your horse trailer is “ready to go” or other transport arrangements are prepared well in advance.
  • Carry your vaccination record, Coggins test and health papers with you.
  • Carry 2-3 days of horse feed and water with you.
  • Evacuate 2-3 days prior to hurricane landfall to avoid traffic delays and full shelters.

Horse and Livestock Sheltered in Place:

Sometimes it is not possible to evacuate horses and livestock. The following actions could greatly improve the survivability of horses and livestock sheltered in place:

  • Reinforce your barn and outbuildings with hurricane straps and other measures.
  • Open gates or remove fencing so that animals may move to high ground during flooding and to low-lying areas during high winds.
  • Purchase a hand pump and obtain enough large containers to store water for your animals for at least a week.
  • Protect a supply of animal feed from becoming damaged by flooding or high winds.
  • A generator with a safely stored supply of fuel may be essential, especially if you have electrical equipment necessary to the well being of your animals.
  • Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris and injure your animals.

Having the proper materials ready-to-go and taking the appropriate steps is the best way to ensure safety of you and your fuzzy family members during hurricane type weatherHaving these kits in an area you can get to easily is just as important as having the kit itself, so make sure it is kept in a secure area.  One great place to keep this information is in a Rubbermaid container in the trunk of your car so it is ready to go.  Additions to this kit such as flashlights, extra batteries, a car cell phone charger, weather radio, and extra clothing are also essential items that will make your evacuation routine a little less hectic. 

For further information concerning pet shelters and preparing for hurricanes, please contact the Bradford County Emergency Management Office at 904-966-6336 or the Bradford County Cooperative Extension Office at 904-966-6224.

First Aid Kit

Make sure to have a first aid kit on hand to use in an emergency for both you and your animals.