NEW YORK—June 1 marks the official start of this year's Atlantic Hurricane Season, and the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is urging pet owners in hurricane-prone areas to develop an emergency plan in advance to keep their families and pets safe.
A 2011 poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and commissioned by the ASPCA revealed that more than one-third (35 percent) of cat and dog owners don't have a disaster preparedness plan in place. In the Northeast, nearly half of dog owners (45 percent) and cat owners (42 percent) don’t know what they would do with their pets in an evacuation, compared to less than one-third of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (30 percent) in the South, where hurricanes are most common.
"Hurricanes, like other natural or man-made disasters, threaten the safety of people and animals alike, and it's often too late to create a plan for your pets when you're in the middle of a crisis," says Dr. Dick Green, director of disaster response for the ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response team. "Why risk not being prepared for an emergency when all it takes is following some very simple steps? Having a plan in place ahead of time can save you precious time and energy, so you can focus on quickly getting you and your pets to safety."
For pet owners who have an emergency plan in place, the ASPCA's national study found that an overwhelming majority (85 percent of dog owners; 81 percent of cat owners) intend to bring their pets with them in the event of an evacuation. Green agrees: "If officials order an evacuation, you should take your pets with you. If it's not safe for you, then it's not safe for your pets."
The research study also found that only a quarter of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (24 percent) say their animals are micro-chipped. "Microchips can be extremely helpful in reuniting lost pets with their owners," adds Tim Rickey, senior director of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response team, who led the relief and recovery efforts of more than 1,300 animals following the EF5 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo. in May 2011. "The ASPCA strongly recommends pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification, and that owners micro-chip their pets as a more permanent form of identification."
The ASPCA offers the following tips on emergency preparedness:
- Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster.
- Make sure all pets wear collars and ID tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA also recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of I.D.
- Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home.
- Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet first aid supplies.
- Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind!
- Choose a designated caregiver who can take care of your pet in the event you are unable.
The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team frequently responds to natural disasters, including major events like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and is commonly called upon by state and municipal governments and other animal welfare partners to lend expertise during large-scale animal rescue operations.
In 2011, the ASPCA assisted more than 18,500 animals in communities throughout the Midwest and South that were severely affected by tornadoes, flooding and storms, and estimates that more than 600,000 cats and dogs were affected by natural disasters nationwide.
For more information on disaster preparedness and safety tips from the ASPCA, please click here.