Hurricane Irma is now churning through the Atlantic Ocean, and many models suggests South Florida is now in the path of what the National Weather Service calls a “potentially catastrophic” storm. Forecasters say Florida could see the effects of Irma by Friday night or Saturday morning. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency on Monday, and early Tuesday the storm strengthened to a Category 5, which is the most severe class of hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour. It’s true that hurricanes can sometimes fizzle out or defy predictions but that is never an excuse to skimp on preparations.

Here at the Humane Society of Broward County (HSBC), we want to get you and your pet prepared in case the storm does hit.

NOW (FOUR TO FIVE DAYS OUT):

Get medications up to date: If your pet suffers from anxiety when crated or during extreme weather, you should ask your veterinarian whether a sedative medication is needed. If your pet is already prescribed a sedative, make sure the animal has enough medication to ride out the storm and get a refill if needed. Also, make sure all your pet’s other health needs are addressed. Does your dog have a current supply of flea, tick and heartworm treatments? Are your cat’s vaccinations up to date? Areas affected by flooding can be breeding grounds for dangerous insects and diseases so it’s extremely important that your pets are protected. During the storm, HSBC does provide shelter for pets and their owners who live in evacuation zones, but it does not provide medication.

Check on your pet’s food supply and make sure it can stay dry: To prepare for a storm, we recommend you have a two-week supply of pet food on hand as well containers full of water. Store the food in large plastic bags that seal tight to protect them from flood waters. Your pet doesn’t need bottled water, but they do need water. One way to ensure a proper supply is to fill large containers with tap water before the storm. You’ll need at least a gallon of water per day for each pet in your household. Hurricane experts urge people to have at least a three-day supply of water on hand; a two-week supply is ideal.

Make a plan. Will you stay or will you go? It’s important to know how vulnerable your home will be to flooding before a storm hits. Also assess the structure of your home: Do you have hurricane shutters or hurricane-proof windows? Is your roof reinforced to withstand hurricane-strength winds? If any of these concerns apply, it is likely that you and your pet will need to find another place to ride out the storm.

If you decide to stay with family or friends outside of evacuation zone, make sure your pet has a carrier, cage or crate so transport is safe and easy. An animal should be able to easily stand up, sit and turn around in its carrier, cage or crate. If this is not the case, it is time to buy a larger carrier for your pet. This will be a stressful time for your pet and they will need a place where they feel safe. Often times, the crate is where a dog will feel the safest. So be sure to set up the crate once you arrive at your temporary hurricane quarters.
If staying with family or friends isn’t an option, the Humane Society of Broward County offers a pet friendly shelter for pets and people who live in evacuation areas. Use this map to determine whether you live in an evacuation area: http://bit.ly/2w3L5c0

However, HSBC has the following requirements:

  • Proof that you live in an evacuation area, to include all mobile home parks (utility bill). A driver’s license alone will not be sufficient.
  • A current photo of your pet. This photo will be placed in your pet’s file and will not be returned.
  • Pets must be up-to-date on rabies vaccination and licensing.
  • The name, address, and telephone number of your veterinarian.

Please address these requirements BEFORE the storm arrives.

A FEW DAYS BEFORE (TWO DAYS OUT):

Create a safe, comfortable space: If you’re staying at home, set up a safe place for your pet away from windows and doors. If you have a dog crate, but don’t normally use it, get it out and set it up so your dog can use it as a den. Put familiar bedding and toys inside the crate to make more comfortable.
Create an emergency kit for your pet: Make sure you store a kit of essential pet items by an exit in case conditions change drastically. A simple kit stored in a backpack could include pet food, bottled water, medical records, a blanket, a flashlight and leashes.

Anticipate some mess: A hurricane can last for days, which could keep pets inside without walks or outdoor potty breaks. Cats won’t be fazed, but dogs will have a big adjustment to make. Make sure you choose an easy-to-clean area in your home as a bathroom area for your dog such as a laundry room or garage. Make sure you have newspapers or potty pads as well plenty of cleaning supplies.

DURING THE STORM:

Stay inside: At the first signs of wind or rain, bring your pets inside immediately. Animals can become disoriented during a storm so it’s important that they are safe and secure indoors before the storm hits.

Stay calm: Animals can sense tension and anxiety in people and can feed on it. If you keep your cool during the storm, it’s more likely your pet will too. Other small things like soothing music or favorite toys nearby can help keep your pet calm.

If you use the HSBC Shelter: Pets and their owners who live an evacuation area can take refugee from the storm at our storm shelter. The address is 5803 NW 94th Avenue, Tamarac, FL 33321. The shelter should be a last resort for pet owners because we have limited space.

Updated for Irma on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 11:10am: IMPORTANT UPDATE! All previously posted shelters are now FULL! A 4th shelter just opened at Lakeside Elementary and will accept people with their pets.

Lakeside Elementary School
900 NW 136 Ave
Pembroke Pines 33028

If you have already pre-registered (submitted paperwork and supporting documents), NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE, you can still seek shelter at Millenium Middle School. But PLEASE BRING A CRATE FOR YOUR ANIMAL. We may not be able to let you in without one.

Pet owners must stay with their animals at the shelter. However, pet owners and pets will sleep in separate areas. As discussed above, pet owners should bring a supply of pet food with them. Keeping your pets on a consistent diet can help avoid gastro-intestinal issues. Click here for more information: http://humanebroward.com/pet-friendly-shelter/