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Government > Departments > Public Safety > Animal Control > Disaster Information
Government > Departments > Public Safety > Animal Control > Disaster Information

Preparing for Disasters

Plan of Action | Develop a PlanEvacuation | Stay at Home 
After a Storm | Key Considerations | Links to Other Sources

The only way to reduce the devastation of a disaster is to be prepared. The more you prepare, the better your chances of reducing suffering and risk for yourself, your family, your animals, and your community. If you live in Florida, you must plan for disasters, such as hurricanes, and that planning should include your pets. Any disaster that threatens humans threatens animals as well.


Frightened animals quickly slip out open doors, broken windows, or other damaged areas of your home opened by the storm. Released pets are likely to die from exposure, starvation, predators, contaminated food and water, or on the road where they can also endanger others. Even normally friendly animals of different species should not be allowed together unattended since the stress of the storm may cause distinct behavior changes.

REMEMBER: If you must evacuate, then conditions are not only unsafe for you, but they are also unsafe for other living creatures.

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If you are planning to evacuate to a temporary shelter, some shelters will allow pets to accompany their owners. Please contact the temporary shelter in your area to find out their rules and limitations.

If they are unable to house both you and your pets, arrange shelter for your pets at a veterinarian or kennel close to your evacuation location so that you will have as much contact with them as possible. You and your pets will fare better if you are together.

If you plan to go to a motel, determine in advance whether pets are welcome and what, if any, special rules are applicable.

Find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, and more using these resources:

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LEAVE EARLY! An unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long and not being able to leave safely.

All animals should have secure carriers (or collapsible cages for large dogs) as well as collars, leashes, and rabies tags. Carriers should be large enough for the animals to stand comfortably and turn around.

Train your pets to become familiar with their carriers ahead of time. The carrier will be a secure and comforting refuge if the animal is required to live in it for days - even weeks - after the storm.

Before hurricane season begins on June 1 every year, make sure all your pets have current immunizations and take these records with you if you must evacuate.

Photograph each of your pets prior to June 1 of each year and include these pictures with your immunization and other medical records.

Your pet survival kit should include:

  • Ample food (at least a one week supply)
  • Water/food bowls
  • Medications
  • Specific care instructions
  • Newspapers and plastic trash bags for handling waste
  • Brushes, combs, and other hygiene items
  • Toys and others comfort items
  • Muzzle, if necessary
  • Manual can opener, if necessary

Ask your veterinarian for emergency care recommendations.

If you plan to shelter your pets at a kennel or clinic, call before evacuating to determine if space is available. Allow sufficient time to travel from the kennel to your evacuation location after making certain that your animals are secure.

Throughout the evacuation and the storm, your pets will need reassurance from you. Remain calm, keep as close to their normal routine as possible, and speak to them in a calm, reassuring voice.

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It is just as important to adequately plan for your pets even if you don’t have to evacuate. Carriers, collars with proper ID, and leashes should be maintained for your pets at all times.

Your pets will be most comfortable and secured in a safe area of your home until the storm has passed. If they are not secured during the storm and your house is damaged, your pets may escape and become disoriented, since normal landmarks and scent trails could be obliterated. If your pets become lost, proper ID will ensure their return to you.

Place your pet food and medication in watertight containers in a cool, dry, dark place. Store adequate water for your pets. Your normal water source may become contaminated.

If you bring plants into the home before a storm, be careful not to allow pets access to them since many ornamental plants are poisonous.

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Walk your pets on a leash until they become reoriented to their home.

USE CAUTION: Downed power lines and other debris pose real dangers to you and your pets. Do not allow pets to consume food or water which may have become contaminated. Be extremely careful in using candles or oil lamps, particularly around pets. Never leave them unattended.

When you know that you have done everything you can do to protect all members of the family, disaster preparedness will give you tremendous peace of mind.

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MAKE SURE ALL PETS ARE WEARING PROPER IDENTIFICATION. If you become separated, it will be their ticket home.

Get your pets inside and under control as soon as a warning is announced. DO NOT LEAVE A DOG TIED OUTSIDE IN HURRICANE WEATHER. It is against County Ordinance to leave an animal tethered outside during a hurricane, flood, fire, tornado, or blizzard (4-37 Humane Care).

If you evacuate to somewhere other than a public shelter, TAKE YOUR PET. If it is dangerous for you, it is dangerous for your pet.

If you MUST leave your pets behind:

  • Ensure they have access to a safe room without windows, but with adequate ventilation (for instance, a bathroom or utility room.)
  • Leave enough food for at least three days.
  • A sufficient supply of water is critical.
  • If your area might be flooded, provide access to elevated spaces or counters.
  • Do not leave cats and dogs in the same space - even if they have been friends.

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For weather updates, visit the National Weather Service.

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