PET PLAN: Hurricane preparedness isn’t just for people

Published 1:08 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

National Hurricane Preparedness Week is a reminder to plan for worst-case scenarios: for sheltering in place without electricity, for evacuation and what to take versus what can be left behind. While family members are automatically included in those plans, it’s sometimes easy to overlook other members of the family — pets.

When making a hurricane plan, pets and their care should be included, according to authorities.

“Prepare an emergency supply kit. That supply kit has at least three days and nights in a waterproof container of food and three days, nights, of water, as well,” said Beaufort County Animal Control Chief Billy Lassiter.

A potential hit from a Category 4 or stronger hurricane means a mandatory evacuation for all residents of Beaufort County, but even weaker hurricanes can cause major flooding, as seen during hurricanes Irene and Floyd. When making an evacuation plan — a stay inland on higher ground with family, friends or other accommodations — whether pets can be accommodated as well needs to be considered, according to Chris Newkirk, operations chief of fire/emergency management for Beaufort County.

As with people, pet-owners should take their pets’ medications when evacuating, along with vaccination records. Pets should be wearing a collar with ID tags and crated, if possible. During emergency situations, shelters are opened in Beaufort County to house people, but they do not take pets. However, the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility does offer that option.

“If a human shelter opens, then we’ll open up here. We’ll accept the pets for those people going to the human shelter,” Lassiter said.

He warned against people trying to sneak even small animals into those facilities.

“We actually had to go one shelter because one person took their animal there — tried to hide it in a purse — and we had to go out in the worst of the storm to get it,” he said.

During past hurricanes, Lassiter said the animal shelter has housed between five to 10 animals for residents who have evacuated. The shelter requires pet-owners to bring the medications and vaccination records, along with a photo of themselves with their pet, for easy ID-ing purposes.

“If you don’t have one, we’ll take a picture for you at the shelter,” Lassiter said.

Lassiter said the animal shelter does not have the ability to accommodate livestock, but there are other options, such as boarders or veterinarian offices.

“If you’ve got (livestock), you’ve got to prepare and think ahead,” he said.