I live in Tornado Alley where we’re more than ready to see winter’s snow pack melt. But along with spring comes an unstable atmosphere and a risk for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. There’s nothing you can do to stop storms from passing overhead, but you can take steps before they’re needed to protect yourself and all members of your family by taking simple precautions and making arrangements before they’re needed. Tornado and hurricane season present challenges for pet owners every year.
Outbreaks of tornadoes aren’t exclusive to Tornado Alley. When one hits, homes are destroyed and lives are put in danger all over the United States. It’s difficult to protect pets if a tornado touches down while you’re at work and no one is home to take care of them. It can be hard even if you are home. When storm sirens are blaring, there’s not a lot of time to think about what to do and it’s easy to miss pets when you’re trying to make sure human family members are safe. Hopefully, you’ve thought about where you would take your family during a storm and have it stocked and ready to go. When severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings are in your area, leave your pet in the basement or interior room while you’re away from home. A simple precaution to give you peace of mind if you can’t get home and give your pet better protection from a storm.
You can find millions of articles online telling you how to put together an emergency survival kit for you and your pet. What you need to survive on your own for at least 3 days or longer. Important papers, food, water, flashlights, clothing, medications, cash, etc.. But the sad fact is many people don’t do it and only think about what to do in an emergency and where to go at the time of the emergency. Tornado and hurricane season happens every year. Now is the time to make arrangements with family or friends outside your area who could house you and your pets if needed. Search for hotels and motels to find pet friendly facilities and check local shelters and veterinarians to see if they take pets if you have to evacuate your home after a tornado or before, during or after a hurricane. Please, never leave pets home alone in a cage or tied up if you need to find safe shelter. In the worst case scenario, they are trapped and unable to help themselves. Red Cross and FEMA shelters do not allow pets nor do many emergency shelters for people. Plan now so every member of your family can return home safely.
Tornado and hurricane season aren’t the only natural disasters that can threaten your home. Floods, flash floods, forest fires, wildfires and earthquakes happen and they can hit in your community. If you have to evacuate your home because it’s not safe for you; it’s not safe for pets either. If you’ve thought about where you would go and have already made arrangements for pets, that’s one less thing you have to worry about.
Unlike tornadoes that can drop down suddenly from any severe storm, hurricanes go through a developing stage before they hit land giving people in its path lead time to make arrangements for themselves and their pet/s if they are forced to evacuate. As we witnessed during Hurricane Katrina, many pets left home alone didn’t fair too well. It was a wake up call to officials, pets need to be included in evacuations to not only keep them safe but to keep pet owners who refuse to leave home without their pets safe as well.
There’s only so much you can do, but it’s important to do what you can. Pay attention to reports of possible flash flooding, wildfires, severe thunderstorms and tornado outbreaks that could endanger your home. Know where your pet might hide inside your house if they should become scared. Most cats will have a special place they retreat to when they don’t feel well or are afraid. Make sure your dog will come to you when you call him. Teaching a dog to come is not hard and it can save his life. Cats can usually be bribed with a can of tuna for a quick reward if they are hiding. Stay calm because pets can tell when you’re upset or scared. If you don’t have a safe place in your home where you can leave your pet when threatening weather is forecast, talk to a neighbor, family member or friend who could pet sit for the day. Practice how you would handle getting pets to safety and help them feel comfortable in a safe area by giving them a chance to explore it. Dogs and cats like familiar surroundings and are more likely to settle down where they feel safe.
Tornado and hurricane season should never be taken lightly. It doesn’t take long to set up a safe area in your home with emergency supplies for everyone in the family. Every pet owner should have a pet carrier for cats or dogs so you can keep them confined, if needed, in a safe place. A leash for each dog, up to date vaccination papers, current pictures of the pet somewhere besides in the home and phone numbers of neighbors, a friend or a family member who could check in on a pet if you can’t get home – depending on the emergency.
Officials are beginning to understand the best way to save people is to help provide safe shelter for pets before, during and after natural disasters. But we are a long way off from having pet shelters available and ready to go in most areas. Check to see if pet shelters have been set up or are being considered in your area. If there are none, talk with your local leaders about finding a secure location for one. Tornado and hurricane season come every year. Make plans and prepare now because what you do now could save lives later.
Information for Pet Owners, FEMA
Pets, American Red Cross
Protect Your Pets in an Emergency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention