JUNE 1, 2023
It comes around every year, so it’s like your birthday that way… but it lasts a lot longer, and isn’t nearly as fun. Of course, we’re talking about Hurricane Season.
This year, the ‘official’ forecast is calling for an ‘average’ season, predicting between 12-17 named storms (average year is 14)- with 5-9 becoming hurricanes, and between 1-4 becoming major hurricanes. That’s what the scientists say. It only takes one, and while I am not a meteorologist or a climatologist, I am a realist. The reality is we need to be prepared to protect our families and our pets.
Here in the Tampa area, we’ve been very fortunate that we haven’t really experienced a landfall from a major hurricane in quite some time. Last year, Hurricane Ian devastated our neighbors to the south- and would have been catastrophic here in Tampa where we received just a glancing blow. We must prepare every year like this could be the year. So get your supplies ready, and let’s create a plan using some important information below.
Know Your Zone!
It’s critical that you know your evacuation zone. We really like Hillsborough County’s interactive map– where you can type in your address and it tells you your evacuation zone and the nearest shelters (all shelters- not just pet-friendly). For Pinellas County, they have a similar map here– but the map does not show your nearest shelters if you need to evacuate. 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 have to go 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 if it has been ordered.
If you’re under an evacuation order, where should I go?
It’s important to have a plan in place well in advance, even before a storm develops
Option 1: Friends/Family
Contact friends or family outside of the 5 evacuation zones before a storm forms, ideally before hurricane season. 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. These websites are not managed or endorsed by Tampa Veterinary Hospital, and we receive no compensation from these companies.
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.
If you must go to a shelter, understand you will separated from your pet for extended periods of time. You will be required to walk them (when it’s safe) and to feed them, but the majority of time they will not be with you. If your pet has special medical needs, an emergency shelter may not be the best option for you.
These shelters in our area are pet friendly:
- Barrington/Stowers- Lithia
- Burnett Middle School- Seffner
- Durant High School- Plant City
- Middleton High School- Tampa
- Shields Middle School- Ruskin
- Sickles High School- Citrus Park/Tampa
- Steinbrenner High School- Lutz
- Turner/Bartels Middle School- Tampa
- Gibbs High School- St. Petersburg
- Palm Harbor University High School- Palm Harbor
- Largo High School- Largo
Pinellas County Pet-friendly shelters no longer require pre-registration, according to the Pinellas County Animal Services website.
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 for each pet
- 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. How much water does your pet need?
- 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.
If your pet is a patient of Tampa Veterinary Hospital, you have access to your pet’s records using our TeleVet Care app available for both Apple and Android devices. Search your device’s store for TeleVet Care. This will have your pet’s basic medical information available, including their vaccine status. Ask us if you need assistance with the app.
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 the advice and prepare. Your pets will thank you for it.