Protecting Pets During and After a Hurricane

By Samantha-Rae Tuthill, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
1/5/2013 11:49:15 AM

As people are trying to assess the damages from Sandy, the Humane Society of the United States is working diligently to help the animals affected by the storm.

Emergency shelters and response staff are poised and ready to attend to any crises in Sandy-ravaged areas on the East Coast. Mobile vet stations, evacuation teams and reunion services are in place to help care for and connect pets with their families again. HSUS headquarters in Maryland are especially equipped to handle the aftermath of the disaster and to dispatch help along the affected areas.

Emergency supplies packed into an HSUS response vehicle. Photo by Troy Snell/HSUS

There are currently over 100 pets that HSUS volunteers are caring for at their emergency shelters. Some were rescued (and others are continuing to be rescued) after they were left behind during the storm. Others were left at the shelters by families who couldn't take them when they evacuated. They will be returned to their owners when they are able to come back for them.

A dog rescued from a second story apartment is reuinted with its owner. Photo by Lisa J. Godfrey/HSUS

The Nassau County, N.Y., shelter reached capacity and so the facility was moved to another location to accommodate the number of pets being brought up. HSUS workers are prepared to open additional shelters if necessary.

Many emergency shelters that are set up for people will also allow animals following a natural disaster. If you need assistance in caring for or finding your pets, use the Hurricane Sandy Pet Rescue Hotlines. New York City hotline: 347-573-1561. New Jersey hotline: 1-855-407-HSUS

The HSUS's Animal Rescue Team Helping Animals and Families

HSUS cites social media as an important part of their recovery efforts. By using the hashtag #SandyPets and conducting searches of tweets and other social media posts, HSUS volunteers were able to help spread information about proper pet evacuation. They were able to debunk myths about what to do with pets during a storm (never leave them behind alone in your home when you evacuate!), help connect people with their local shelters and give people information on what to do about strays and wildlife that were being affected as well.

Related: Include Your Pets in Hurricane Emergency Plans

The days and weeks following a storm like Sandy can be full of confusion, frustration and worry. However, it's crucial in the aftermath of a storm for pet owners to remember the safety of their animals as they move towards rebuilding.

"If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for your pets," said Betsy McFarland, Vice President of Companion Animals for HSUS.

Never leave a pet tied outside in or following stormy weather, even if it has a dog house or some other unsecured shelter. Keep them in the house with you. Try to keep them in the same room as you, both to help ease your animal's anxiety, and also to make it easy to gather them up if you need to leave in a hurry. Keep clean water and food in sealed, air-tight containers with your own food supplies. Try to help make them as comfortable as possible with blankets and their carriers if necessary. When taking a dog outside, be sure to look out for debris or other hazards created by the storm.

The Humane Society's Cape Wildlife Center is also in action following Sandy, helping to rescue injured and orphaned wildlife for rehabilitation and eventual re-release into the wild. Here, rescue workers save a young buck on Monmouth Beach, N.J. Photo by The HSUS

More than anything, McFarland stresses the importance of keeping your pets with you during these times. Make sure they have identifications on their collar. If you don't have your pet microchipped or have an I.D. tag on them, write your name and contact information on a piece of tape and affix it to your pet's collar. If you plan on traveling with your animal, make sure the contact information contains a number that you or a relative can be reached on while you are on the road.

Trying to ease the anxieties that come after storm can be a difficult process. Preparing as much as you can ahead of time can help those anxieties, and emergency resources that are set up can help you get back on track. For pet owners, that includes the extra responsibility of helping to keep your pets calm and safe in the wake of a natural disaster.

To help with relief efforts contact your local shelters to volunteer or donate. You can also visit the HSUS website for donation and volunteer information, or text ANIMALS to 20222 to donate $10 to the Humane Society.