Ask an Animal Expert is a monthly column from Belize Humane Society. Every month, we’ll ask a veterinarian or other expert the most common questions about animal welfare and responsible pet ownership. This month, we find out how we can keep our pets safe during natural disasters and emergencies. Our expert this month comes from the National Emergency Management Organization.
Dear Belize Humane Society,
When hurricane Earl passed through Belize last summer, I was lucky enough to be able to stay home and keep my dogs safe and sound inside with me. Unfortunately, I noticed that a lot of people left their dogs outside to fend for themselves during the hurricane. I know hurricane season can get really hectic, but there must be a better way for people to keep their animals safe. How can we make sure our pets are safe during natural disasters?
Concerned Animal Lover
Dear Concerned Animal Lover,
When it comes to pets and disasters, the number one key is to always be prepared. With hurricane season around the corner, it’s important to have an emergency plan for your pet in the same way you would for yourself and your family. There is no better time than the present to prepare an emergency kit and plan for hurricane season. Our dogs and cats are especially sensitive to their environment so it’s essential to keep them out of distress. Pets are not allowed at hurricane shelters so you must make arrangements in advance to keep them safe during an emergency evacuation. Here are some ways you can successfully prepare for natural disasters.
Before the Storm:
• Start now! Make sure your pets are always wearing an identification tag on their collars as well as their rabies tag. If you’re able to, put your phone number on their I.D. tag. This can reunite you with your pet should you get separated.
• Keep collars and leashes near the door should you need to emergency evacuate.
• Put together a Pet Survival Kit. This should include 3-5 days of food, water, and toys to keep them distracted during the storm.
• Keep newspaper handy since your pet may not be able to go outside to do their business.
• Have a carrier or crate on hand and familiarize your pet with it beforehand. Ensure that your pet carrier/crate has an identification tag with your name, phone number, and address.
• If you must evacuate, make plans in advance with family or friends who live inland. Hurricane shelters do not allow pets. Do not leave your pet behind. If it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets.
• Belize does have pet-friendly hotels. If you cannot shelter with family or friends, find the nearest pet-friendly hotel near you.
• Emergency public transportation during an evacuation does not allow pets, so if you do not have a vehicle, make arrangements with friends or family beforehand.
• If you know you’ll be away during hurricane season, leave a spare key with a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member who your pets are already familiar with.
During the Storm:
• Immediately bring your pet indoors.
• If you’re staying home during the storm, designate a safe room and keep your pet’s survival kit in this room.
• Store all toxic products in hard to reach places.
• If your pets do not get along, be prepared to keep them in separate rooms.
• If you are evacuating, DO NOT leave your pet behind.
• Evacuate as soon as possible. Do not wait last minute.
After the Storm:
• Wait until the all clear is given to take your pet outdoors.
• Do not let your pet roam.
• Keep your pets on leashes when you go outside as the environment may have changed drastically during the storm.
• Be aware of fallen power lines and immediately report them to BEL.
• Be sure not to let your pet drink contaminated water.
• Wild animals such as snakes may have been displaced during the storm. Do not let your pet go outdoors alone.
Pet Survival Kit:
Your pet survival kit should include the following:
• Identification tag, rabies tag, and collar
• Crate or carrier with your contact information
• At least 3-5 days of canned food and water
• Medical records including vaccination history
• Specific care instructions including their eating schedule and bathroom routine
• An up-to-date picture of your pet with an accurate description including their age, sex, breed and your contact information should you get separated
• Bowls to serve food and water in
• Hygiene supplies: newspaper, cat litter, plastic bags
• Medication if necessary
• Toys and familiar items to keep pets occupied
• First Aid Kit
• Grooming supplies
Emergency plans should also be in place for large animals such as livestock. Contact your NEMO coordinator to locate the nearest designated corral or move your livestock to higher ground.
Every year, NEMO releases informational brochures and educational campaigns on disaster preparedness. Now is the best time to prepare before an emergency so you and your pet can safely endure the storm. Your pets are especially sensitive to their environment so be patient with them during this time. Practice responsible pet ownership today and start gathering supplies for your pet’s survival kit. Your pet will thank you for it!