Hurricane Season 2020
We’re headed into the heart of hurricane season, and forecasters (and most Floridians) are keeping an eye on the first potential threat to Florida in Tropical Storm Isaias. Although this storm does not appear to be a severe threat to us here on the west coast, it serves as a reminder that we need to be prepared now.
Should I evacuate? If I should, where do I go?
It’s critical that you know your evacuation zone. I like Channel 28’s website– where you can type in your address and it tells you your evacuation zone and the nearest shelters (all shelters- not just pet-friendly). In both Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, there are 5 zones (A,B,C,D, E). If you are under a mandatory evacuation, follow the instructions given by emergency management officials. If you are required to evacuate, that means your pets too. Do not EVER leave your pets in your residence if you are forced to leave. If you live in a mobile home, manufactured home or Recreational Vehicle- you are ALWAYS required to evacuate.
Option 1: Friends/Family
Contact friends or family outside of the 5 evacuation zones now. Ask them if it is OK to seek shelter with them in the event of a storm. It may be necessary to contact different friends/family throughout the state, depending on the predicted path of the storm. It’s always good to have options. Remember that not all of your friends or family may be able to accommodate you and your pets due to space, or other concerns such as allergies to pets.
Option 2: Hotel/Motel
Find a pet-friendly hotel outside of the projected path of the storm. Although this would be an added expense during an already stressful time, having a safe and secure location for your family and pets is well worth the peace of mind. There are hundreds of pet-friendly hotels throughout the state. Below are some websites which can help you select the right hotel for you and your family. Find a few properties in different locations throughout the state that would meet your specific needs. Put their numbers in your cell phone so you have them at the ready if you need to evacuate.
Here are some online resources with listings of pet-friendly accommodations throughout the country.
Option 3: Evacuation/Emergency Shelter
If you cannot evacuate the immediate area and must seek a public, pet-friendly emergency shelter, there are 8 available in Hillsborough and 3 available in Pinellas. Be sure to check that the shelters are open before evacuating. These shelters are:
- Barrington Middle School- Lithia
- Burnett Middle School- Seffner
- Greco Middle School- Temple Terrace
- Shields Middle School- Ruskin
- Smith Middle School- Tampa
- Turkey Creek Middle School- Plant City
- Turner/Bartels Middle School- Tampa
- Wharton High School- Tampa
- Gibbs High School- St. Petersburg
- Palm Harbor University High School- Palm Harbor
- Largo High School- Largo
Pinellas County Pet-friendly shelters will require pre-registration. You can find the registration form on the Pinellas County website here.(Adobe Reader required) If you know that you are unable to leave the area- you should pre-register now.
All shelters will require proof of vaccination. Hillsborough county only requires the Rabies vaccine be current. Pinellas County requires Rabies as well, and mentions no other requirements. Our suggestion is to vaccinate your pets with all of their core vaccines, plus Canine Influenza for dogs. If just one pet has a contagious illness, it will spread quickly in a shelter environment. Protect your pet and ensure all of their vaccines are up to date.
Resources for Hillsborough County, including pet-friendly shelters and requirements click here.
Pinellas County, including pet-friendly shelters click here.
Option 4: Stay in your residence
This option should NEVER be used if you live in an area which is under a mandatory evacuation. ALWAYS follow the direction of your local emergency management officials. Shelter in place only if you are not under a mandatory evacuation, and only if you are positive your residence can withstand the punishment from the storm. DO NOT, EVER leave your pet behind in your residence, nor should you use your pet as an excuse to ignore evacuation orders. Period.
If you are staying within your residence, prepare an area in the interior section of your house for your family to include your pets. As the storm approaches, place your pets in a pet crate with some comfort items such as a blanket, pet bed or favorite toys. Your pets will most likely become anxious and frightened during the height of the storm. If your home is damaged during the storm, a sturdy crate or pet carrier will be the safest place for them, and lessens the potential for escape.
I strongly suggest having each of your pets microchipped. Microchip technology reunites more lost pets with their owners than any other method. If your pet should escape or become lost during a hurricane or for any other reason, a microchip implanted between the shoulder blades of your pet is the most reliable way to have your pet returned to you.
Determining where you are going to go is just step one. Now, you need to gather your pet’s storm supplies to ensure their health and safety during and after the storm.
Here is your checklist of things you will need FOR EACH PET- whether you’re evacuating or staying in your residence:
- A recent photo of your pet
- Vaccination and medical records
- Registration tags
- Two-weeks worth of food
- Feeding and water dishes
- Manual can opener if your pet eats canned food
- Two weeks worth of fresh water
- Cat litter, newspaper or other cat litter material
- Plastic bags for handling pet waste
- 2 weeks worth of any medication(s)
- Non-retractable leash
- Cage/Pet carrier- Pet carriers or crates should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. It should also have secure doors to prevent escape.
- Antibiotic ointment
- Adhesive tape such as vet wrap
- Comfort items such as chew toys, blankets or pet beds.
I will keep my fingers crossed for another quiet hurricane season- and that we don’t make it very deep in the named list, but in the meantime, I will be gathering my supplies and calling my friends and relatives on the east coast to ask if I can stay with them if a major storm has set its on the Tampa Bay region. Please heed my advice and prepare. Your pets will thank you for it.