31 Aug 10

Pets & Hurricane Safety ...

By Nancy E. Hassel, LIPetPlace.com
Pets & Hurricane Safety

With Hurricane Earl churning up the sea and seems to be heading towards the US coastline, it brings the question to light, “what would I do in a disaster with my pet? Where would I go? Can my pet come with me to a shelter?” Being and island without a real “escape” route in case of a natural disaster like a hurricane or bad Nor’easter this is something all Long Island pet owners should be aware of.

In Suffolk County we are fortunate that if there was a natural disaster there are 3 dedicated spaces that are pet-friendly emergency shelters – acting as a safe haven that could house dogs, cats, birds and their owners in case of evacuation in a disaster.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy made sure that people would have a place to go to with their pets. It would depend on what shelter would open, in regards to where the disaster happened. In other words, if the disaster happened on the East End, then a space near Yapank would open, and if it was in Smithtown one close to that area would open. You can find out more information about Suffolk County by going to their Office of Emergency Management here: http://suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/firerescue.aspx and useful pet information here: http://suffolkcountyny.gov/Home/departments/firerescue/Office%20of%20Emergency%20Management/Information%20for%20Pet%20Owners.aspx

Unfortunately in Nassau, there are not any dedicated pet-friendly emergency shelters at the moment. However, there is a non-for-profit organization called Pet Safe Coalition, Inc. (http://www.petsafecoalition.org/) who is working to help educate the public and help pet owners keep pets safe when a disaster strikes. They are also raising awareness about pet safety in disasters and provide informational resources to public officials.

“Sheltering plans in disasters will accommodate only a fraction of the pet population in Nassau County so the most important thing an individual pet owner can do is to make plans for their own pets,” said Nancy Lynch President, of Pet Safe Coalition.

Things all Long Island pet owners should do in advance of any emergency or natural disaster is have a proper collar on your dog or cat with ID, have a pet first aid kit in your car and home with at least a weeks worth of pet food, canned is best, keep an extra leash and collar with ID in your car for each pet, (or with the pet first aid kit), in case you have to get out in a hurry and your pet doesn’t have their collar on. You should also have an in-case of fire or emergency sticker on your front door or window stating how many pets are inside and what type. This way if you were not home, neighbors or emergency officials will know there may be a pet inside.

Nancy Lynch also added to the following plans pet owners should make: 1.) Ask friends, relatives, breed club members, groomers, trainers or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. 2.) Contact hotels and motels outside of your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask if a no pet policy could be waived in a disaster. 3.) Make sure your pet is a more welcome guest by having a crate and carrier for each animal. 4.) As hurricane approaches call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements and get directions. 5.) Don’t wait until the last minute to evacuate. Make sure your gas tank is full and bring your cell phone and car charger. And develop a plan and practice it.

Also if you are heading to the beach within the next few days to check out the surf, and plan on bringing your dog with you, be to keep him or her leashed.  Waves in general can be dangerous for any dog and with rip tides and pounding waves – dogs don’t know not to go in the water.  Be a responsible dog owner, and please keep Bella or Max on a leash for their safety.

Waves from a past storm out at sea.

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