As monster storm Michael roars toward Florida, the HSUS offers emergency tips, prepares to help with rescue and relief
As Hurricane Michael barrels into Florida, having turned overnight into a category 4 storm, our Animal Rescue Team has been reaching out to shelter partners and allies, as well as emergency management officials, to encourage them to move unowned shelter animals out of harm’s way and secure pet-friendly transportation or shelter for residents evacuating with their animals. Our thoughts are with those in Michael’s path, and we’re ready to assist with animals in need of rescue or relief.
With anticipated winds of up to 150 miles per hour at landfall and storm surges expected to top 14 feet, Hurricane Michael is expected to deliver a major blow to the panhandle. It is extremely important that residents in Michael’s path evacuate with their pets to get them to safety. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. The message we’re communicating to members of the public is a simple one: if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for your pets. It’s really important to make arrangements before a disaster for your pet’s safety, as some established shelters may not be able to accommodate your beloved animals. Please have a plan to stay with friends or family, or take your pets with you to a hotel or other safe haven.
If your family and pets must wait out the hurricane at home, identify a safe area of the house where you can all stay together. Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide. Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area. Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification. If you have a room you can designate as a “safe room,” put your emergency supplies there in advance, including your pet’s crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies. If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape. Listen to the radio periodically, and don’t come out until you know it’s safe. If the electricity goes out or if you’re forced to leave your home because you’ve lost electricity, take your pets with you.
Don’t forget about your horses, goats, chickens, iguanas or other animals living outside your home — they need the benefit of a plan and a safe place as well. They require the same consideration and provisions in an emergency, especially if flooding is a concern.
With the storm about to make landfall, we are thinking of the residents who are evacuating, and the animals they love. This is an incredibly busy time for our Animal Rescue Team, which has, over the years, conducted countless rescues and responses. Recently, we deployed to the Carolinas for relief work after Hurricane Florence, where we helped approximately 1,000 animals, including unowned shelter animals transported from danger before and after the storm, and cats, dogs, birds, pigs, cows and other animals rescued from flood waters.
We train all year round, we maintain our vehicles and equipment, and we stay connected with the larger disaster response community and infrastructure at the state and federal levels. With decades of experience doing such work under our belt, we are well-equipped and ready to respond. This time will be no different. Please consider making a donation to the Emergency Animal Rescue Fund. With your support, we can continue to answer the call during natural disasters, situations of extreme cruelty and neglect, and whenever animals are in need of urgent rescues.