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Preparing for Disaster

Wolfrage [Flickr]

One lesson learned  in Hurricane Katrina is that failure to include pets in a disaster plan endangers not only the pets, but also the pet owners, and even first responders who try to rescue them .  Be a  responsible pet owner and plan to keep both you and your best friend safe, no matter what blows your way.


Even as the cleanup continues after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, another hurricane is causing devastating damage and threatening our coastline, putting people and animals in danger.

Sadly, some pet owners in Texas and in Florida evacuated and left their furry friends behind, in some cases tied to a tree, a car, a fence, giving them no hope of surviving hurricane-force winds and flooding. In Palm Beach County alone, more than 50 animals were rescued from such situations just prior to the storm. Officials intend to charge the owners with felony abandonment and cruelty.

I hope that no one listening would ever just abandon their furry companion; but, do you have a plan to make sure both you and your pet can stay safe if you must evacuate? You might start by assembling a Disaster Kit for your pet that includes things like bottled water, feeding dishes, pet food, medical records and current medications, maybe an extra leash, a pet carrier, a blanket or towel and especially a current photo of your pet. Keep everything except the pet carrier in a grab-and-go bag or container that is easy to carry. For cats, remember to include cat litter and litter box.

Make sure your pet wears a collar or harness with an ID tag listing the pet’s name and emergency phone numbers. And have your pet microchipped, because collars and harnesses can be lost. As soon as you think you might need to evacuate, don’t wait too long to leave, or you could find yourself in a situation where you would be unable to take your pet with you. It’s better to make an extra trip than to risk your pet’s life in the face of a disaster.

The Department of Homeland Security has put together some very helpful information at the website,, where you can find tips on making a plan and assembling a survival kit for your furry buddy. There are several links, called “Shareables”, at the bottom of the page. Click on those for even more information.

Your best friend depends on you to keep it safe and get it out of harm’s way, especially when disaster strikes, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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