Published on 08/30/18

When planning for hurricane season, don't forget to include your pets

By Ashley Hoppers

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season kicked off with Subtropical Storm Alberto in May, and more powerful storms are anticipated as the season progresses. The best way to ensure the safety of your family during hurricane season is to be prepared with a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan should include your pets.

When making an emergency preparedness plan, common sense goes a long way. If it is not safe for you to stay in your home during an emergency, it’s not safe for your pets either. 

During your disaster preparedness planning, there are many things to consider as a pet owner, including packing supplies for your pet, either in your own emergency kit or in an emergency kit assembled just for your pet. 

When facing evacuation, many families struggle to find lodging that accommodates their furry companions. Many hotels and shelters do not accept animal guests unless they are registered service animals. With the exception of service animals, most Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets either.

Being prepared means not waiting for a mandatory evacuation before you start making lodging arrangements. By that point, hotels will be booked and the roads will be crowded. 

Avoid the stress of finding acceptable lodging by investing a little time before an emergency occurs. Be proactive and call ahead to learn which hotels and motels along your planned evacuation route will accept pets during an emergency or disaster situation. 

Once you know which locations can accommodate families with pets, take the next step and call ahead for reservations if you know evacuation may be a possibility in the near future. Ask whether no-pet policies could be waived in an emergency situation. 

During this planning phase, you should also determine which friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters or veterinarians could care for your animals in the event of an emergency. Prepare a list with phone numbers.

Another thing to consider is that while your animals may be more comfortable together, you may have to house them separately.

A good way to help get you and your pets ready for evacuation is to include your pets in evacuation drills so that they become used to entering and traveling in a carrier. This can be particularly helpful with cats, who may be accustomed to entering their carriers only when being taken to the vet.

When traveling, it is also imperative that your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with up-to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations. 

Hurricane season is here, so do not wait — call your veterinarian and request a copy of your pet’s most recent medical records. If your pet is missing a rabies tag, request a new one. File these essential documents inside your pet’s emergency kit.

Unfortunately, some pets do not travel well. Rather than being stuck in a car for hours with a scared, wailing cat, talk to your veterinarian about medications your pet might need to reduce anxiety or symptoms of travel sickness. Speak with your veterinarian about testing this medication on your pet in advance to ensure that your pet does not suffer any adverse side effects. Consider asking your veterinarian to insert a microchip under your pet’s skin as a means of permanent identification.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recommends including the following items in your pet’s emergency kit:

  • Copies of medical records, including the name and telephone number of your veterinarian.
  • Information on your pet’s feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior problems.
  • Medications, food, drinking water and bowl.
  • A manual can opener for canned food.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. 
  • Pet kennels, beds and toys.

For more information from Extension about how to prepare for hurricanes, see UGA Extension Bulletin 1428, “Home Emergency Preparedness Handbook,” at

Ashley Hoppers is the UGA Cooperative Extension County Coordinator in Fannin County and Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Gilmer County, Georgia.

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