Last month, 500 tornadoes hit the United States, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center. They’re part of a pattern of extreme weather — one that isn’t going to let up any time soon.
Extreme weather has a devastating effect on communities — shattering homes, tearing apart families and uprooting lives. Amid the chaos, our beloved four-legged friends are often caught unaware and defenseless.
As hurricane season begins this month, and the effects of natural disasters compound around us, it’s important to remember how pet owners can prepare for the worst. There are three main timeframes of concern: before a storm, during a storm, and after a storm.
Before a storm, pet owners should prepare as much as possible. That means making sure your pet can be identified with up-to-date contact information — contained on either a microchip or collar tag. It also means planning for the worst and preparing an evacuation destination for your pet, like the home of a friend or a temporary boarding facility. Think about how to get there and the supplies your pet will need, like bowls, water, food and any medication. You’ll also need a crate, veterinary records, leash and collar, and a recent photo of your pet.
If a storm hits, and your family must evacuate, the most important thing to remember is to take your pet with you!
If you choose to ride out a storm in your home, choose a safe area within the house, ideally an interior room without windows. Keep your pet with you, and if they’re crated, be cognizant of their needs. They depend on you for food and water. A pet lost in a storm is in great danger, so secure exits and cat doors beforehand. And tranquilizing your pet is never a good idea. If you’re separated, they’ll need to rely on their survival instincts.
After a storm, make sure the dangerous weather has fully passed before going outside and assessing the damages — leaving animals inside. If you need to take your pets out of the house, keep dogs on a leash and cats in a carrier.
Extreme weather can drastically change the environment, uprooting trees and displacing landmarks. Those dramatic changes can stress out and disorient pets, making them more likely to be aggressive or try to run away. Keep your pet safe, away from unfamiliar people, sharp debris, downed power lines and water that may be contaminated. It’s a stressful time so be sure to comfort your animals with kind words, love and lots of petting.
Preparation is important, but nothing individuals can do will prevent a disaster. Oklahoma and Arkansas have been drowning under massive floods, California is freezing in record-setting cold, and the Southeast is grilling under record-setting heat. Soon the East Coast will be battered by hurricanes.
American Humane knows the devastation each extreme weather event entails. Just last week, we were in the floodwaters in Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, and saved dogs, cats and one bunny. In the past year, we’ve responded to numerous disasters, including the wildfires in California and two hurricanes. The devastation in their wake is heartbreaking.
Holding onto your pets can help you and your family weather the storm. We’ve seen the relief in a family when they’re reunited with a pet lost during a storm. Trust us when we tell you that you won’t regret preparing.
Ganzert is the president and CEO of American Humane.