When Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, I was an American Red Cross volunteer at Honduras Elementary School in Houma, Louisiana. We turned the school into a hurricane shelter for more than 100 people.
A girl arrived at the shelter crying because she had to leave pets at her home and didn't know if the pets would still be alive after the storm. Watching the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado news reminded me of this incident.
If there is a natural disaster where you live, do you have a plan for what to do with your pets?
Government and animal advocacy group websites provide advice for taking care of pets when natural disasters strike.
Ready.gov recommends that you take your animals with you if you evacuate:
If you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.
If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.
Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can't care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests posting a Rescue Alert Sticker if there are pets inside your house and include contact information on the sticker. ASPCA also recommends that animal owners keep an evacuation kit and provides a list of supplies.