I’m an optimist. Anyone who’s known me for more than a minute knows it, and my stock answer (especially regarding forecasts predicting bad weather) is usually “It won’t be that bad.” And most of the time, I’m right. But, having lived in South Florida before moving back to NJ (and weathering my fair share of hurricanes, including Andrew in 1992 and Sandy in 2012!), I’ve experienced first-hand what being prepared for a storm means! And while I hope you never have to experience a severe storm, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. For this blog, I’m going to assume that you’ve taken care of preparing your home and family… But if not, Red Cross has a nice website outlining how to prepare for every emergency imaginable.
Here’s my list of tried-and-true tips to keep the stress of my (and your!) canine family members at a minimum (feel free to adapt this list to other species of pets that you have in your home):
1. Have a Pet Survival Kit Packed and Ready
- Two weeks of food and medication.
- Manual can opener (if your dog eats canned food).
- Leashes and collars (plus tags).
- Food and water dishes.
- Toys and blanket.
- Cleaning supplies (paper towels, disinfectant, plastic bags).
- Bags to pick up after your dog.
- Crate or travel carrier. If your dog isn’t used to staying in one, start slowly training them to accept it. Some evacuation shelters require dogs to be crated, and having the ability to use a crate at a hotel or friend/relatives house will give your dog a sense of security.
- Laminated picture of your dog (to prove ownership and to post if your dog gets lost).
- Copy of current vet and vaccination records, tags, microchip info.
- List of emergency phone numbers (your vet, local animal shelters that will house dogs in an emergency, friends, and relatives).
- As far as storage goes, be sure to keep items that can be damaged if wet, in waterproof containers.
2. BEFORE a weather event threatens, research which hotels in and out of your area will accept pets. Store this information in your Pet Survival Kit. The Automobile Club of America publishes a book (for members only) that lists hotels and motels that will accept dogs.
3. Make sure your dog has at least the basic obedience commands. A solid “Come,” “Stay, ” and “Heel” command are essential for keeping your dog safe at any time, but especially while traveling and in unfamiliar circumstances.
4. NOW is the time to teach your dog that it’s fun to travel and visit strange new places! A dog that’s used to adventures will be far less stressed than one who never leaves his home or yard except for yearly vet visits!”
5. For carsick or easily stressed animals, consult with your vet BEFORE a weather emergency to see if there’s anything you can do to help relieve their symptoms, in the event you do have to relocate to a shelter.
6. Create an alternative potty area for puppies and dogs who don’t appreciate torrential rains, strong winds, or even snow. You know who I’m talking about: puppies, older dogs, small dogs, dogs who just don’t love the cold (my rat terrier, Jilly!). Before a storm hits my area, I teach my students to get a construction-type trash bag and duct tape it to the floor of their garage (No garage? Use a covered area on your front or back porch). Then they throw some mulch or cedar chips on it (or go the wee wee pad route!) and voilà! They have a spot for their dog to potty. Practice this ahead of time – by taking your dog out to it – on leash helps you focus him on the location – and use your usual “go potty” command. Most likely, he’ll give you a “Have you lost your mind?” look. Act like you haven’t, but if he won’t go, bring him back in the house and try again later. Keep a close eye on him during that time! If you have a puppy OR a dog that would rather use the, ahem, ‘indoor’ facilities, then perhaps crating them until you go back to the potty spot would be a wise decision. For reluctant dogs, you may want to leave a bit of ‘evidence’ in the potty area, so that on the next trip out there, your dog will have a reminder of his last visit. Understand that getting him to use it the first time is the challenge. After that, you’re home free.
AFTER A STORM
I know it LOOKS like it’s over, but there’s still a potential danger! When you’re taking your dog outside after a hurricane, keep him leashed at all times and avoid downed power lines, standing water, debris, or any wild animals that may be displaced from their normal environment.
HOW YOU CAN HELP POST STORM
So many animals end up abandoned, endangered, or separated from their families due to severe weather. And if you’re feeling the same way I do when you hear the news and see pictures and videos of the aftermath, here’s a few ways you can help:
* Donate money to shelters and rescue groups.
* Donate Supplies. Dog and cat food, kitty litter, crates, or other amenities are always appreciated. Sometimes rescue groups (like Austin Pets Alive in Texas) post to an Amazon Wishlist, and detail supplies needed.
* Fosters are always needed, but never more than during an emergency.
* Even if you don’t live in an affected area, you can also volunteer at a shelter or rescue group. Many are transporting animals out of the affected area and to other locations, so help is needed everywhere. Volunteering and donating anything you can to a shelter or rescue group is ALWAYS a good idea, even when there’s no weather emergency!