How to Keep Your 4-Legged Family Members Safe in an Emergency

Disaster Preparedness for Pets

Who loves you more unconditionally than your dog or cat? When Mr. Whiskers with his detective-like instincts and Buddy with his ever-wagging tail look up at you with those 'We trust you completely’ eyes, it’s hard to deny: They're not just pets – they’re family. Make sure your beloved four-legged family members remain happy and happy, rain or shine. In Florida, this means keeping them safe before, during, and after hurricane season. Pay back their love and devotion by making sure they're an integral part of your disaster preparedness planning. 


Your Shelter Options

When a hurricane or tropical storm is on its way, you have two main choices when seeking shelter: stay home or leave. If you leave, you may aim to evacuate the region altogether and stay with family or friends or find other lodgings outside the danger area – or you may head to a nearby shelter. Here are some tips for each scenario:


  • Hunker down at home. Make sure you and your pets are together during the storm; if you’re in your safe room – they should be, too. Block off the typical hiding spaces so frightened pets don’t get trapped.
  • Go to a shelter. Pet-friendly shelters tend to fill up fast. Make reservations ahead of time if possible. Service animals are welcome at all Red Cross shelters. If your pet is aggressive toward people or animals, take an appropriately sized muzzle with you; the shelter may require it.


Note: The federal PETS Act, passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, requires states to accommodate the needs of individuals with household pets as part of their disaster response efforts. This might include, for example, making shelters or evacuation buses available for people and their pets.


Pet Supplies to Keep On Hand

There are two ways you’ll need to prepare so you’readhering to on top ofpet safetybest practices and have the essentials needed to weather any storm:


  • Pet emergency kit. This is a separate stash of supplies you keep at home – and can move into your safe room, if necessary.
  • Pet go-bag. This is a lighter, more portable version of the pet emergency kit. Use a backpack or duffle bag and keep it near you or at the home’s exit during a storm. You’ll need to be able to grab it and go.


So, what do you include? Here are the basics any good pet parent will want to include:


  • Leash/harness
  • Carrier, crate (one per pet, ideally)
  • Medications, medical records, microchip #, your vet’s contact info
  • Photo(s) of you with your pet
  • Food, water, & bowls – if using dry food, swap it out every few months
  • Kitty litter, scooper, and pan (aluminum roasting pans are great in a pinch)
  • Puppy pads, poop bags, and trash bags
  • Favorite toys/bedding/treats


Pet Safety Do’s

Here are some of the top actions Florida homeowners should take to protect their dogs, cats, and other house pets during emergencies:


  • Always keep your pets in mind while disaster preparedness planning.
  • Ensure your pets are wearing a collar and ID tag.
  • Keep your pets harnessed/leashed when outside or away from home; if spooked, they could dart off and hide.
  • Consider microchipping your pet – and keep your contact info updated.
  • Take a photo of you with your pet (it can help prove ownership).
  • Bring your pets inside at the first sign of a storm or other disaster.
  • Get a free rescue alert sticker from the ASCPA.
  • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date.
  • Write your pet’s name, your name, and contact info on their pet carrier.
  • Your pet’s collar ID tag should include their name and your phone number. If you are separated from your pet, another person may not be able to immediately have your pet scanned for a microchip – but they should be able to call you.
  • Practice safe handling. Even the most chill pet may behave badly when frightened or injured.


For more information, FEMA’s created the following helpful checklist ofhow to prepare your pets for disaster, available in both English and Spanish.


Pet Safety Don’ts

Below are some of the most important things NOT to do regarding your pet before, during, or after a hurricane:


  • Don’t leave pets behind if you evacuate! Remember, if it’s not safe for you to stay in your home – it’s not safe for them, either. You may think you’ll be gone for just a few hours; but you could be prevented from returning home for weeks or longer. Always take your dogs, cats, and other household pets with you.

  • Don’t allow pets to roam loose. This applies to immediately before, during, or after a hurricane. They may be disoriented and likely to escape. They may be frightened and confused and act aggressively toward you, other people, or animals.
  • Don’t allow pets to interact with other animals. This includes strays and wildlife alike. Bites and infectious disease are the top concerns with doing this.


Keep Pet Safety Top of Mind Before, During, and After Florida’s Hurricane Season

The weather in Florida can be unpredictable – and severe weather or flooding events requiring you to leave your home can occur year-round. To ensure your entire family, including beloved four-legged family members, make it through Mother Nature’s worst, be sure to includepet safety in your disaster preparedness planning. This includes creating a pet emergency kit ahead of time and keeping them with you before, during, and after disaster strikes. 


At Edison Insurance Company, we take pride in helping to protect what matters most to you, including your dogs, cats, or other furry friends. Would you like to update your policy or learn more about your coverage options? Simply contact your Edison agent.


If you don’t currently have home insurance or condo insurance with us, get started with and online quote now. 

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