Keeping Pets Safe During Hurricanes

As Seen On A Sussex Directories Inc Site

Photo courtesy Animal Talks

In August 2005, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with devastating fury to people, property — and pets. It left in its wake death, destruction and especially heartbreaking images of abandoned and dying family pets, most left behind in the belief their pet parents would be back soon to rescue them.

They never came back. Their pets perished. Many died on rooftops or were trapped in flooded homes, cages and bathrooms — waiting. Many were found by the sides of highways fighting for their lives.

About 250,00 pets were left behind. In spite of heroic, yet desperate, efforts over 1,800 people and 150,000 pets perished in Katrina’s wrath. If any good came from this tragedy, it was a significant change in the legal status of pets.

As Maris Fessenden reported in Smart, U.S. House lawmakers were inspired to enact the Pet Evacuation Bill, which requires authorities to take pets into account with their emergency training, and educate people on how to care for animals during natural disasters. Pets now must be evacuated with people. The federal government soon signed similar legislation, the PETS Act, into law.

Hurricane Ian

While millions of Floridians were told to evacuate ahead of Ian’s landfall, this mass exodus proved easier said than done.

Many people could not evacuate. Some didn’t have the funds to find shelter elsewhere or were disabled or too ill to move. They had no help or couldn’t read or understand English. Even though warnings were also posted in Spanish, multiple languages are spoken in Florida. And many had pets they would not leave out of a deep sense of love and devotion.

While the final numbers of pets and people lost are still unknown, stories are coming in.

In Fort Myers, lashed by 140 mph winds and inundated by floodwaters, veterinarian Sharon Powell and her husband retreated to the safest place they could find for themselves and their pets — a downtown parking garage, according to the Miami Herald, which also posted advice from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on how to keep animals safe during  storms like Hurricane Ian:

  • If you’re evacuating, take your pets with you!
  • Make sure your pets are secure inside a home. If you have a basement or room without windows, shelter in place there.
  • Animals will experience anxiety during severe weather, particularly if they’re sheltering in a new location, such as a basement. Make sure necessary prescribed medications are nearby, as well as toys and things that can comfort your pet, like a thunder jacket or familiar blanket.
  • If evacuation is necessary, be sure to have a leash, collar, dog tags, pet carrier and any essential paperwork on hand.
  • Pet parents should know where favorite hiding places are for pets so they can be easily found during emergencies.

Most pet parents are unlikely and unwilling to leave their pets behind. It’s part of the profound, powerful bond we build with them as beloved family members. But for many people who left their pets behind in Katrina or Ian, it was with the belief they would only be separated for a day or two at the most, and they are still suffering the guilt and remorse.

Perhaps with new laws and a deeper awareness, this kind of suffering for both pets and their families will become a thing of the past.

Rev Kaleel  Sakakeeny is an animal chaplain and founder of Animal Talks, a Boston nonprofit animal charity with a global mission to help anyone who is suffering the pain of having lost a beloved pet, their animal companion to death. Please visit for helpful resources and more information.

Find New England holistic Animal Services in the Spirit of Change online directory.