Include pets in evacuation plans

Published 11:02 am Sunday, June 12, 2022

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When a hurricane or other weather related disaster hits, don’t overlook the family pet as part of any emergency action plan.

Keeping in mind that pets are susceptible to many of the same dangers humans would be during a storm, leaving a pet behind should not be an option when obeying an order to evacuate.

Because state health and safety regulations do not allow pets other than service animals in Red Cross or other disaster shelters, it’s important to plan ahead. There are no designated emergency shelters in Currituck nor in Dare County, so a list of pet friendly hotels in the areas you may have to evacuate to would be helpful.

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Fortunately, emergency management officials have begun to realize that pets are an important part of many families. That means when emergency shelters are established, some are likely to be designated as pet accommodation facilities. Locating a pet friendly public shelter in advance can be difficult, but during an emergency listen to local officials and media reports to find an emergency shelter that will allow pets.

Advance planning and preparation will also enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. Keep in mind, however, that you could be on the road with several hundred to several thousand other people heading to the same general area.

An important step is to make sure an animals’ vaccinations, including rabies, are up to date. Medical documentation is sure to be required by most shelters so a copy of each pet’s medical records from the veterinarian will help with that. Then be sure to store those records in a waterproof container.

Don’t forget to include a current photo and proper identification for all pets in case you and a pet are separated.

ID tags should include pet name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs. It is suggested you include a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires and a first aid kit. You may wish to take pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

A sturdy pet carrier or traveling bag, ideally for each pet, should be included, as well as muzzle, collar and leash for dogs, disposable litter trays (aluminum pans work well) and litter or paper towels for cats.

Locating a shelter does not mean there will be food there. Pet owners will generally be required to feed and care for their own animals.

When preparing a pet emergency evacuation supply kit, it should include food, either dry or canned (pop top or make sure to have a can opener), enough water to last three to seven days, and pet feeding dishes.

Pet owners may wish to consider options to shelters when evacuating, A list of pet friendly hotels and motels can be found online at

Check policies regarding types, number, size and species of pets that are accepted. Consider asking friends, relatives or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. Prepare a list of out of area boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency.

Large animals such as horses and livestock will require even more planning. In addition to medical records, a horse owner needs to know how they will transport their animals. They should have a plan if they need to rent a trailer. During past evacuations, large animal shelters in Martin County and Raleigh have been used during storm events.

Horse owners are required to feed and care for their animals while they are being sheltered.

Although most people do evacuate when facing a major hurricane threat, some do not. Some dogs and cats can become skittish as a storm approaches. Outdoor pets should be brought inside before a forecast storm is projected to affect the area. After a major storm, the area could be without electricity, water and a way to obtain necessities for days or even weeks. Those who don’t leave should make sure their pets have enough food and water for an extended period.

After the storm passes, animal control agencies will attempt to rescue abandoned and injured animals, shelter them and reunite them with their owners. But area agencies say a pet should never be left behind. Doing so not only places a pet at risk, but animal control officers are in danger when rescuing abandoned pets.

If you need more information, or help planning your pet evacuation kit, contact the people at Outer Banks SPCA and Dare County Animal Shelter at 378 Airport Road in Manteo, or call 252-475-5620. In Currituck County, the Animal Services Center is at 140 Aviation Parkway in Barco, or call 252-453-8682. In Tyrrell County, call 252-766-0033.