JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

One of the biggest reason people give to authorities about why they did not evacuate is they do not want to leave their pets behind.

You don't have to. The American Red Cross offers free shelters for cats and dogs, while places like Pet Paradise offer services for free to help care for pets during a mandatory evacuation. City shelters will accept dogs, cats, rodents (such as hamsters, gerbils, etc.), rabbits and birds. They will not accept reptiles. [More information about COJ pet shelters]

Many hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and other lodging facilities also will accept pets. Search PetsWelcome.com or PetFriendlyTravel.com.

BEFORE THE STORM

  • Make sure that your pets are current on their vaccinations. Pet shelters may require proof of vaccines.
  • Have a current photograph of your pet.
  • Keep a collar with identification on your pet and have a leash on hand to control your pet.
  • Have a properly-sized pet carrier for each animal - carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
  • Plan your evacuation strategy and don't forget your pet! Specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters, veterinary clinics and friends and relatives out of harm's way are ALL potential refuges for your pet during a disaster.
  • If you plan to shelter your pet -- work it into your evacuation route planning.

DURING THE STORM

  • Animals brought to a pet shelter are required to have: Proper identification collar and rabies tag, proper identification on all belongings, a carrier or cage, a leash, an ample supply of food, water and food bowls, any necessary medications, specific care instructions and news papers or trash bags for clean-up.
  • Bring pets indoor well in advance of a storm - reassure them and remain calm.
  • Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first served basis. Call ahead and determine availability.

AFTER THE STORM

  • Walk pets on a leash until they become re-oriented to their home -- often familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost. Also, downed power lines, reptiles brought in with high water and debris can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
  • If pets cannot be found after a disaster, contact the local animal control office to find out where lost animals can be recovered. Bring along a picture of your pet if possible.
  • After a disaster animals can become aggressive or defensive -- monitor their behavior.
  • Don't forget your pet when preparing a family disaster plan.

STORM SUPPLY KIT FOR PETS

  • Proper identification including immunization records
  • Ample supply of food and water
  • A carrier or cage
  • Medications
  • Muzzle, collar and leash
  • Contact your veterinarian or local humane society for information on preparing your pets for an emergency trip.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: