As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, animal protection agencies are urging pet owners to take immediate steps to protect themselves and their pets before the storm makes landfall.
In the event of an emergency or natural disaster, experts say, the worst thing pet owners can do is to adopt a “wait and see” attitude. Instead, pet owners should take pro-active steps to secure their pets or remove them from the anticipated disaster zone.
Hurricane Sandy is potentially the largest storm to hit the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) website.
On Sunday, hurricane-force winds of up to 75 mph extended 175 miles from the center of the asymmetrical storm, while its lesser tropical storm-force winds spanned 850 miles in diameter. While Sandy’s winds were not exceptional for a hurricane, the hurricane’s exceptional width means the high winds could last as long as two days, and the storm’s effects will be felt from the mid-Atlantic states to New England. Officials estimate that widespread power outages that could last for days, could be expected.
Sandy is expected to come ashore late on Monday, striking major cities in its immediate path including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Boston. The center of the storm is forecast to hit New York and the New Jersey area before it moves inland toward Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania.
In New York City, up to 375,000 people have been ordered to evacuate from low-lying areas. City officials plan to suspend subway, bus and train service on Sunday evening, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Pet owners are being urged to take this storm seriously, and to take their pets with them if they are evacuating the area. Extensive flooding and disruption of transportation could mean that it could be several days before homeowners are able to return to their homes in storm-damaged areas. As the ASPCA points out, “If you’re not safe, neither is your pet.”
Below are pet safety measures to take for Hurricane Sandy or any other disaster preparation event.
Before the storm
Bring your pet inside now – Animals can often sense natural weather-related events such as hurricanes or tornadoes well in advance of the event itself. Animals may display agitation, or will frequently seek out hiding places. The National Hurricane Center suggests that pet owners collect and comfort their pets inside, in a controlled environment, well in advance of the storm.
Prepare to take your pets – If you’re planning to head to a Red Cross Shelter or hotel, remember that not all will take animals. The ASPCA has a list of directories for finding a pet-friendly hotel. Also check with the local animal shelter (many of them provide disaster sheltering services), and local veterinary clinic or boarding facilities.
Gather pet supplies now – It may be several days before things return to normal. Experts recommend packing five to seven days of pet food, water, and any medications your pet needs, along with litter trays, fresh litter, and trash bags.
If the pet is going to a shelter or other boarding facility, they will most likely need veterinary records or other proof that the animal is up-to-date on its vaccinations.
Pet owners should also make sure they have a pet carrier or crate ready for each pet, and a leash and collar or other restrictive aid to ensure that their pet does not escape and go astray.
It’s also a good idea to take a picture of each pet in case something happens to them during the storm. Owners should keep one picture with them, and leave one picture with the boarding or shelter facility.
During the storm
Do not remove your pet from its carrier or crate unless it is completely under your control. Animals can, and do, act unpredictably when they are scared or frightened. Wait until the storm has passed to walk dogs or horses.
The Humane Society recommends keeping your pet secured during and after the storm and not letting them roam free, especially if there is extensive storm damage to buildings, trees, and structures. FEMA advises you should watch out for snakes, roaming dangerous animals and power lines that may have fallen.
After the storm
Provide a routine for your pet – Most animals find a routine soothing and comforting. If your pet is used to being fed or walked at certain times or places, get them back to their usual routine as soon as possible. The Humane Society of the United States suggests taking extra precautions for the first several days as the usual smells and sights may be gone in the storm’s aftermath. Pets may become disoriented and confused by the lack of familiar landmarks and not recognize their neighborhood and home.
Pet Safety Information
ASPCA Disaster Preparedness for Pets
HSUS Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock