Hurricane Tips for Pet Owners

The following information has been adapted from,  We strongly suggest a visit to their website for more updated and full information about pet preparedness. Some of this info is dated and subject to changes – please verify that the resources listed below are still available. 

Why pet-friendly shelters?

According to the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) of 2006, state and local emergency preparedness operational plans must address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency IF they want to qualify for grant $ from FEMA. The Act gives FEMA authority to help communities develop pet-friendly shelter facilities and practical assistance for individuals with pets and service animals, and the animals themselves, following a major disaster. Some counties think just saying they will not have a pet-friendly shelter until later and offering names of a couple of motels miles away on their Web site that used to accept pets is “addressing the needs.” That is incorrect. Actually, the PETS Act does away with all the excuses from county and city governments without pet-friendly disaster plans. While this is indeed progress, it has come at great cost. Laura Maloney, head of the Louisiana chapter of the SPCA, said as many as 70,000 pets were either killed or abandoned after Katrina left much of New Orleans under water in August 2005.

They’re part of responsible pet guardianship

People who have pets are responsible for their health and safety and must have a plan during a disaster that includes those pets. That plan should not include leaving them tied to trees during the storms or left in empty house with a little food and water. As Hurricane Katrina showed all of us, the lives of both humans and their beloved pets depend on the humans being prepared, being smart and staying smart. Of the 70,000 pets who died or were abandoned as a result of Hurricane Katrina, only about 15,000 were saved and only 20 percent of those were reunited with their owners. The rest ended up in various shelters around the United States. Many are probably still wondering where their families went.

They’re ethically correct. Pets are a barometer of our humanity

For many people, pets are part of the family. It’s ethically vital to help people keep all members of their family safe. A 2006 survey found that 44 percent of those in New Orleans who remained at home did so because of a pet, while only 18 percent failed to evacuate because they wouldn’t leave a family member behind.

Public pet-friendly shelters are terrific, but should not be your first choice if you have other options.

We think the first choice of where to go should be a pet-friendly relative or friend’s house that’s out of the evacuation area. If that’s not an option, we think the next best place to go is a pet-friendly hotel or motel that’s out of the evacuation area.

If the first two options won’t work for you, our next suggestion is to find a pet-friendly emergency shelter in your area. So far this year, we’ve found the following counties not compiling with the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006: Bradford, Calhoun, Columbia, DeSoto, Escambia, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hendry, Franklin, Indian River, Liberty, Pasco, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Union, Wakulla.

What to do if there are no nearby relatives, friends, motels, hotels or pet-friendly shelters?

If all the above options are exhausted, we suggest loading up the animals, necessary supplies and sentimental items that could not be replaced if lost, and leaving the state. You might call this Plan D. This is why having a plan is so important. Be sure to use a safe route, one prescribed by your county emergency management department. Pick up pamphlets in public locations and/or print out evacuation routes from Web sites now so you’ll be prepared if the need should arise later this summer. In 2004, some people on the west coast of Florida, thinking they’d be safe heading east, got into worse weather than they would have had if they had stayed put. The storm just grazed their area and blasted into central Florida, amazing even the experts. So be prepared to act, not react.

Do not leave your pet behind!

We hope you weren’t one of the people who left over 400 dogs behind, to fend for themselves, in Polk County after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Nope, we aren’t making those stats up. They came right from Hillsborough County Animal Services that set up a makeshift shelter to gather lost pets in that area after the storm. We wish we didn’t have to say this but if you leave your pet behind, you are essentially sentencing him or her to terror-filled days and nights…or much worse.

Why local kennels, veterinarian offices and humane society shelters are not good options.

While there are some kennels and veterinary offices that graciously offer to board pets during disasters, it’s important to know if your house isn’t safe, if your town is slated to, for example, get hit hard by a hurricane, local kennels and vet’s offices, may also be in peril. Those buildings aren’t necessarily built to withstand hurricane force winds. Anyway, this is a bad option – it separates you from your pet. While some humane society shelters announce they’ll house some animals temporarily, this places strain on already-full shelters and one-on-one care may be difficult, plus sometimes those buildings aren’t built to withstand hurricane force winds either. This option also separates you from your pet.

Stay informed. Verify before leaving.

Not all facilities we list here are open for every storm and decision sometimes aren’t made until the very last minute.

Broward County

1. Millennium Middle School, 5803 NW 94th Avenue, Tamarac.

Note of 05-18-07: This pet-friendly shelter is only for pet guardians living in the county’s evacuation zone (east of US 1) and/or those living in mobile homes. Pre-registration is required and can be accomplished in person at the Humane Society of Broward County, located at 2070 Griffin Road, Dania Beach, beginning June 1, Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. To register, you’ll need: proof of your address, i.e., utility bill, proof of pet’s vaccinations and license, veterinarian’s information, photo of pet and a carrier for your pet.

Pet guardians must also stay at the shelter; animals will be housed in individual crates in the school’s gym and people will stay in the cafeteria. Humane Society volunteers and a veterinarian will supervise the pets. For more information, call 954-989-3977 or go to Humane Society of Broward County. There is room for a maximum of 350 pets and 500 people.

2. Sartory Senior Center, 10150 NW 29 Street, Coral Springs.

Note of 08-18-07 This volunteer-operated pet-friendly shelter will open ONLY when a hurricane warning has been issued for the Coral Springs area. Pre-registration of pets is required by completing a Pet Shelter Registration form (valid for one year), available at Coral Springs animal hospitals, Coral Springs City Hall, City Hall in the Mall and the Public Safety building. Requirements: carrying cage or kennel for each pet, 3-day supply of water and food, proof of vaccinations and any required medication. No reptiles, no rodents.

If you are interested in volunteering to help run this shelter, you need to complete a Volunteer Application and a Waiver Form – available at the same locations stated above for pre-registration forms. All forms need to be completed and returned to the Public Safety building, “Attention: Humane Officer.”

This option separates you from your pet; humans will have to leave their pets at the shelter on their way out of town during an evacuation. However, becoming a volunteer here would, perhaps, be a good way to help the community and stay with your pet. 

Martin County

Note of 08-21-07: County Commissioners voted today to approve the proposed agreement with the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast to use their facility, located at 4100 SW Leighton Farm Road in Palm City, as a pet shelter ONLY for Martin County residents living in evacuation zones. Pre-registration will be required, and pet guardians will need to present their pet’s vaccination records to register. For more information, contact the Humane Society at 772-287-5753 or 772-223-8822.

However, this arrangement will be just for this year and next. After than, the county is hoping FEMA will come through with some funding to help renovate a school cafeteria in Port Salerno as a permanent pet-friendly shelter.

This option separates you from your pet; humans will have to leave their pets at the shelter on their way out of town during an evacuation. While this shelter survived Hurricane Frances, Jeanne and Wilma in 2004, and it’s certainly better than no place for pets, this arrangement should not be your first choice.

Note of 07-12-07: This county recently received several awards from the National Association of Counties, one of them for their Emergency Management, “for its domestic pet-friendly shelter program and its hurricane preparedness public education program.” We hope this will translate into some cash from FEMA to help with a permanent hurricane shelter facility for people and their pets.

Palm Beach County

Note of 04-25-07: Last year was the first time Palm Beach County had pet-friendly shelters.

This year, Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control will once again provide and operate pet-friendly sheltering for pets and people – thank you, Palm Beach County – this year at the West Boynton Recreation Center, located at 6000 North Tree Boulevard, between Hypoluxo Road and Gateway Boulevard, off Jog Road in Lake Worth. Pre-registration will be required. Officials said dogs, cats, parakeets, gerbils and sugar gliders will be permitted – no reptiles. This shelter, which will be located in the rec center’s gymnasium. The recreation center will hold about 600 animals and about 300 people. Large dogs will be kept separate from small dogs with a room divider. Pets of people with special needs will also be accepted but the people will have to stay at a separate special needs shelter, which means they will be separated from their pets. Preregistration is required for both shelters. For more specific information, call Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control at 561-233-1266 or go here.

The Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, located at 3200 North Military Trail in West Palm Beach will take dogs and cats when an evacuation order is given. Reservations can be made online at the link given here. There is a non-refundable required deposit of $100 per pet, good for the whole hurricane season. For more specifics and information, call 561-472-8874. This option separates you from your pet and if you are delayed more than 5 days in returning to the area, your pet could be considered abandoned!