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When a Hurricane (or Tsunami) Hits, Where Will Your Dog Stay?

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Image of dog wearing rain galoshes and holding an umbrella in its mouth.

More Than 15,500 Pets Had to be Rescued After Hurricane Katrina; 80 Percent of Them Were Never Reunited With Their Families

It’s not a trick question or even a rhetorical one. It’s purely practical because here in Hawaii it’s not a question of IF a hurricane or tsunami will hit, but WHEN.

Where will your dog stay?

Many residents of Texas and Florida learned this summer that it wasn’t easy to keep their pets with them when hurricanes threatened, according to a WebMD article by HealthDay reporter Dennis Thompson. And a new study from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says only 30 percent of U.S. counties with a regular track record of disasters have an animal response team in place.

The study, led by Vic Spain, an epidemiologist, and consultant for the ASPCA, found that larger counties tend to be better prepared than smaller ones, but only 48 percent of large counties have an animal response team for disaster preparedness. The article is in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“More than 15,500 pets in New Orleans needed to be rescued after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the ASPCA said. Four out of five of the animals were never reunited with their owners,” the WebMD story says.

Know where your nearest Oahu pet-friendly shelter is.

So how do we prepare here in Hawaii? Below are a few tips compiled from pet-friendly resources such as the Hawaiian Humane Society, the Hawaii Island Humane Society and the American Red Cross. Many of these requirements are very similar to those we ask pet parents to provide when boarding dogs with us. In addition, the City and County of Honolulu Department of Emergency Management provides a tip sheet for pet disaster planning.

  • Find out in advance which shelters in your area accept pets (not all do), and if there are size or breed restrictions.
  • Check the accommodations to see where your dog will be staying. In a crate or cage? Loose with other dogs?
  • Be sure your dog is always kept current on vaccinations and keep a copy of her veterinary records handy. Some shelters may require them before your dog can be admitted.
  • If your dog isn’t already microchipped, do it today. Natural disasters aside, making sure your dog is identifiable means it’s much more likely that you and she will be reunited if you ever become separated.
  • When preparing your family’s disaster kit, don’t forget to include some extra pet food and medications if your dog needs them. Remember to include food and water dishes and a can opener (there may not be any available at the shelter). Remember also, that there may not be refrigeration at the shelter, so be sure to have some non-perishable kibble.
  • An emergency kit should also include an extra leash, collar (or harness) and a muzzle. Yes, a muzzle. No matter how gentle your dog may be at home, the trauma of a natural disaster may make him so anxious and fearful that he behaves out of character. Plus, the shelter may require it.
  • If you do go to a shelter, be sure to take along your pet’s crate. One that is approved for airline travel is ideal. This is for her safety and comfort and will likely be required by the shelter. If possible, throw in a blanket or towel with the scent of home – your dog will find it comforting to have something familiar with her.

SOURCE: WebMD/HealthDay

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