By Martin Deeley
This is hurricane season and from what meteorologists are telling us, it’s going to be a record-breaking one. This puts not only human lives in danger, but animal lives as well.
If you’re in the path of an approaching hurricane, you may be so caught up in your own emergency preparations that you forget about the family dog, assuming it will take everything in stride. This is a dangerous assumption. All too often, dogs are found left behind and in terrifying, life-threatening situations, with rescue groups overworked and shelters overflowing.
One of a Dog Whisperer’s core beliefs is that our dogs are our responsibility, and it is up to us to make sure they will be safe and cared for before a hurricane or disaster hits.
- Have a plan. Write it down and ensure it is understood by the whole family.
- Your pet checklist will be much like your human one, with some specific additions:
- Fresh water
- First Aid Kit,
- Any prescription medicines
- Radio for weather progress reports
- Contact numbers of friends, rescue and emergency units.
- Have a list of dog-friendly hotels, dog kennels, veterinarians and other facilities outside the danger area. Keep the list in a waterproof container that’s easy to reach.
- If you are away when the storm hits and your dog is being looked after in your home, ensure that the caretakers know of – and are willing to stick to – these plans.
There is no doubt that one of the most important factors is to have a confident, obedient dog that can handle a variety of situations- and a dog that knows it can rely on you. There will be tensions, even panic in the air when a severe storm hits, and any dog will pick up on its human’s fear and concern. We therefore should be preparing our dogs by ensuring they see us as the confident leader of a team that can handle any situation.
When the storm hits, or during your evacuation process, keep these important factors in mind:
- If your dog is prone to hiding, running off or being paralyzed with fear, evacuation can be even more difficult, so it’s important the dog is familiar and comfortable with being crated.
- Have a leash always available in your pocket for use as required, to help guide and lead your dog.
- Even though he may be on a leash, still have a spare one in your pocket – rope type is good, just in case.
- Throughout a storm, should you decided to ride it through, keep your dog on a leash or in a crate and with you in a safe place. Your calm presence will be reassuring.
- Make sure your dog is wearing a reflective collar and identity tag with your cell phone number and contact information. Certainly make sure your dog is micro-chipped.
- Decide well in advance whether you are going to ride the storm out or evacuate. If you’re evacuating – and you definitely should if given this instruction by authorities – do not leave it until the last minute. Calmly bring all required things together and move to safety as soon as possible. Have your dog on a leash before you even open the door to leave your home.
- Never leave your dog behind, even in your own house. You may not be allowed back into a disaster area for a long time. Do not wait until there are high winds, heavy rain, waters rising and harsh conditions making it difficult to leave.
- If you have friends that will take you in during the storm, ask them if they are willing to allow your dog to stay with them. If friends you trust can take your dog but you must stay elsewhere, ensure they have all the information on your dog, his supplies and have the experience to deal with anything that should arise.
- Should you decide to ‘ride’ the storm, designate a safe room and have all supplies held there. Have your dog on a leash and attached to you so he cannot escape should he become fearful.
- Even when the storm is passing or has passed, follow through with the safety procedures for your dog. Take him out on a leash and let him acclimate to his changed surroundings. So much will look and smell different, and damage can be extensive. Security fences could be down and certainly there will be debris creating new images that can confuse or scare dogs. There could also be wild animals in places they have never been before, which may awaken your dog’s prey drive. Always try to remain calm and help the dog remain calm. Take your time, be patient and realize that stress has a powerful effect on behavior.
In general, dogs are very adaptable to all sorts of different situations, but a hurricane, storm or disaster of any intensity can create issues that may last a lifetime. We want you and your dog to be safe. Preparation, – even “just in case” – can be a lifesaver.
Exclusive special feature by Martin Deeley:
Executive Director & Co-Founder
International Association of Canine Professionals