What to do about your pets

They depend upon our care, and planning for their safety before the storm strikes and after it has passed is a pet owner’s responsibility.

Think now about where your pet will spend the storm: at home with you? At the home of a friend? At your veterinarian’s office or a kennel? In a pet-friendly shelter?

Here are things you can do now to start getting your pet ready for hurricane season and some tips to remember for storm day and beyond:

* Start by having your pet microchipped so it can be identified and reunited with you if you are separated. A collar with tags can be lost during a storm.

* Get your pet acclimated to a locking crate or carrier. If your pet connects the carrier only with an unwelcome trip to the vet, put the carrier out now and put some treats in it so your pet becomes familiar with it and is less resistant to entering the carrier on hurricane day.

* On storm day, keep your pet in the carrier with a towel draped over it to create a secure, den-like place. It will provide a comforting atmosphere for pets, who often sense that something is wrong before humans do.

* A frightened pet may bolt for its secret hiding place. If you decide abruptly that you need to evacuate, you may not have time to search the house for your pet.

* Keep a small pet in the carrier when you get into the car. Wind, rain, or flying debris may cause you to drop a pet you’re carrying, and it may run away.

* Don’t leave your pet behind alone; imagine what it must go through. One of the lessons of Katrina is that an evacuation may last far longer than you expect when you leave. You may think you’ll be gone only overnight. You could be gone for days or weeks.

* Most public shelters will not accept pets. A few offer a pet-friendly shelter. Call the shelter in your area, and plan ahead of time. Your vet or kennel may offer accommodations during hurricanes. Now is the time to find out what’s available.

* Before the storm, take a picture of your pet alone and one of you with your pet. If your pet should be lost, the photo will be useful in making fliers and describing your pet to animal shelter workers. The picture of you with your pet will help reassure workers that the pet you say is yours really belongs to you.

* Be attentive to your pet even after the storm blows through. Streets and yards may be full of debris. Nails, broken glass, splinters and other objects can injure a pet. Fences that kept a pet in place may be blown down. Don’t let your pet walk through puddles or play in creeks or gutters. The water may be energized by downed power lines or contaminated with oil, gas, or sewage. The current may be swift enough to knock down or drown an animal.

* It’s easy for animals to become disoriented, and there will be lots of unusual smells and things to explore that may be hazardous. Wild animals displaced by the storm may wander into residential areas -- anything from raccoons and snakes to fire ants. Keep your pet away from them.

PET-FRIENDLY LODGINGS:

Some hotels relax their no-pet rules during disasters. Visit these sites for lists of pet-friendly lodgings:

* www.petswelcome.com
* www.floridapets.net