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 by Laurie Buckley!

Passion 4 Pooches, Articles by Laurie Buckley

Hurricane Ike a timely reminder to have a pet emergency plan, too

The old adage is true: Dark clouds do have a silver lining. Sometimes good things can come out of terrible circumstances. Such is the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina three years ago. In the animal world, we are relieved to know that finally emergency and government officials understand that emergency plans must include provision for people AND their pets. Nobody ever again wants to see the loss of animal and human life that resulted because people were not able to evacuate with their pets. Many refused to leave their pets to take their chances with Katrina, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of animals.

So as numerous storms, tropical depressions and hurricanes have affected us this hurricane season, it's worth reviewing your own plan to ensure your pet's safety. Of course we all hope that this doesn't happen. But hoping does not it so. And denying the possibility (always a favorite of mine!) will just leave us in frantic preparation, without enough time to make smart decisions.

First things first. Do you even have a plan? If Amelia Island or other parts of Nassau County are evacuated, where will you and your pet go? Will she evacuate with you? Will she have to be boarded? Will you both have to go into a shelter? And if the area gets evacuated and you are not home, do you have a trusted friend or family member who will evacuate your pet? These are all important things to think through.

If you are not planning to evacuate to a pet-friendly relative or friend's home, it's a good idea to come up with a list of pet-friendly hotels.
When I came up with my list (1clickpethotels.com or AAA), I identified hotels in all directions leading away from Jacksonville. So depending on the path of the storm, we can head in one of several different directions. Another important resource is the pet care center of Nassau, located in Yulee. Rita, Terry and Dr. Sheila Norstrud have gone to great lengths to ensure that their kennel and hospital are prepared for, and can withstand a disaster. They've also made the commitment to remain at the facility to care for pets during a crisis. If you haven’t visited them recently, take the time to do so. It will give you piece of mind if you must board your pet with them during an emergency.

In Nassau County, the animal-friendly emergency shelter is located at Yulee Middle School. Pets that are going to the shelter must be registered in advance with Nassau County Animal Control at 225-0006. Your pet will also need a crate to stay in the shelter. A crate is a good idea in a crisis anyway. Pets may react adversely in an emergency. A crate will keep them safe during travel and for many, will give them a sense of security.

OK, now that you've got a plan, what supplies will you need? It's smart to have your supplies gathered and ready to go in the event that someone other than you has to evacuate your pet.

First and foremost, make sure you pet has a collar and identification tags on. Ideally, they will include an emergency number (possibly a friend or family member that does not live locally). That way, if communications are down in this area, officials have another phone number to contact. Also have your pet's current vaccination records on hand. Shelters may not allow pets without proof of current vaccinations. And the time to update our pet's vaccinations is not when a storm is barreling down on us. Other items to add to your emergency kit include a leash, food in airtight containers (at least a three day supply), water (1/2 gallon per day), a manual can opener, bowls, a week's supply of all medications, bedding and clean-up supplies (waste bags, paper towels, trash bags, ect.).

Even if you aren’t evacuated, these supplies will come in handy while you and your pet are hunkered down at home, possibly without electricity and water. Of course, I hope it goes without saying that during a storm, all pets, even those that normally live outside, should be brought inside where it's safe.

One site that I now have bookmarked is the Nassau County emergency management department (www. nassuafl-em.com). This site includes additional information about preparing your pet for an emergency, plus all the local information you will need in the event of a disaster.

Animals cannot prepare themselves for disaster. They rely on us to take the necessary steps to keep them protected during an emergency. And the comfort they offer during a time when all else is chaos makes it all well worth it.


Laurie Buckley is the Head Groomer at the Pet Care Center of Nassau - Ritsy Klips in Yulee. She is the owner of AniMassage, an in-home massage service for dogs and horses. She resides in Fernandina Beach with her 11-year-old Border Collie mix, Mae. Send questions to passion4pooches@yahoo.com or call 415-0632.