BILOXI, Miss. -- While Eliza Doolittle, from "My Fair Lady," may have told us that "In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen," they are a fact of life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This week is Hurricane Preparedness week, a good time to review all aspects of your hurricane plan, including what to do with the family pet. And if your plan doesn't include provisions for Fido or Snowball, it might be time to revise it.
Prior to the approach of a storm, pet owners should prepare a pet disaster supply kit. It should include needed supplies for your pet, as well as vital information, such as proper identification and immunization records and a current photo of your animal. Pet disaster supply kits should also include plenty of food and water, a carrier or cage, medications, a muzzle, collar and leash. If you have a cat, include a litter box and fresh litter in your supply kit.
Pet owners should also make sure their animals are up to date on all vaccinations at all times. Not only is this a good idea in general, but shelters may require a current vaccination record to board animals. Pet owners who plan to take their animals to emergency shelters should ask in advance if the shelter is pet-friendly. Many shelters for people will only allow service animals and pet shelters may fill up quickly.
When preparing a pet for a pet shelter, owners should keep in mind that the shelter may require owners to provide proper identification and rabies tag for animals. They should also properly identify all belongings and bring an appropriately-sized carrier, a leash, ample food, bowls for food and water, medications and care instructions, as well as newspapers and trash bags.
Other evacuation options for pet owners include boarding the animal with a veterinary clinic or animal shelter, as well as asking friends or relatives out of the path of the storm to look after the animal. Owners should make these arrangements well in advance of the storm.
Just before a storm approaches, pet owners should attach their name and evacuation address onto the pet's collar. This can help someone return the pet to its proper owner, should the animal become lost during or after the storm. Having a microchip implanted into the pet may also help owners locate the lost animal.
"If an animal's collar is lost or removed during a disaster, a microchip is permanent and will identify the animal," said Joe Elmore with the Humane Society of South Mississippi. "If an animal is stolen, a thief would not be able to remove the microchip."
When a storm approaches, bring pets indoors well in advance to help keep them calm. Pets may sense a storm is coming and run away if they are not brought inside soon enough.
Owners who have no choice but to leave their pets at home should make sure the animal is left indoors and loose with plenty of food and water. Leave the toilet bowl cover up and never leave a pet chained outside. Place a notice outside your house advising what pets are inside and provide contact information where you can be located.
If pets are missing after a disaster, owners should contact their local animal control office and have a current photo of the pet on hand to provide to authorities.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.