Help for Florida animal shelters facing Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma has become an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm that may impact several areas of the state. Governor Rick Scott has declared an emergency in all 67 counties and the Florida Division of Emergency Management has raised the activation level to Level 1 – its highest level.

This is a Full Scale Activation of The State Emergency Response Team.

In a full scale activation, all primary and support agencies under the state plan are notified. The State Emergency Operations Center will be staffed by Division of Emergency Management personnel and all Emergency Support Functions.

The Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida is integrated into the state’s disaster response system and is here to support Florida’s 155+ shelters before and after the storm.

Now is the time to prepare your shelter. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Complete your shelter’s emergency contact form here
  2. Monitor updates on the hurricane path. Updates are typically at 5am, 11am, 5pm, and 11pm
  3. Register your shelter with your county emergency operations center. Under the National Response Framework, all disasters are initially ‘local’ and requests for assistance should be coordinated through the county emergency operations center
  4. Prepare your animals
  • Assure they are safe from flooding and structural damage
  • Evacuate before the storm if indicated
  • Assure all animals have identification
  • Keep records backed up offsite
  • Have sufficient weather-proof crates, carriers, collars, and leashes to move animals is needed

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Animal Industry, has temporarily suspended the intrastate movement requirements for the transportation of animals from the areas expected to be impacted by Hurricane Irma. In addition, border states have waived their interstate import requirements for Florida’s pets and livestock leaving the expected impact areas of Hurricane Irma.

If there is any concern about the security of your facility or of flooding, your animals should be evacuated before the storm. Assistance is available through the statewide emergency response network.

For the Community

Do you need resources to share with your community members, too? Dr. Cynda Crawford shares the following:

Now is the time to make an emergency plan for your family and pets.

  • will help you make a plan for the whole family
  • has information to help you make specific plans for pets. This information is also available in a downloadable PDF as well as in a video format.
  • has pet evacuation tips and locations of pet-friendly emergency shelters by state.

Whether you shelter in place or evacuate to a safer location, here are some basic tips for preparing your pets:

  • Make a hard copy of pet medical records (including vaccine dates) and recent photos and place in a water-tight container. These are important for care of your pets while in a shelter or if they go to a different veterinarian during the emergency. Do not store this information only on your phone since phone batteries frequently die during an emergency.
  • Check to be sure all dogs and cats have up to date microchip information and collars/harnesses with ID or rabies tags.  Microchips and tags are life-savers in emergency situations. They insure reunification in case you are separated from your pets.
  • Have leashes for all dogs and carriers for small dogs, cats, and other small pets ready-to-go in case evacuation is necessary. Nothing worse than scrambling to locate these items at the last minute and possibly in the dark if there is no power.
  • Have enough pet medications on hand for 30 days. Remember that vet clinics or pharmacies may be impacted by the disaster and not available for re-fills. Put the medications in a water-tight container.
  • Keep enough food and water on hand for at least 7 days. Put the food in a water-tight container. Fill a bathtub with water if sheltering in place or purchase gallon-sized bottles of water.
  • Have enough cat litter on hand for 7 days.  Store the cat litter in a water-tight container if possible.
  • Don’t forget your pets’ favorite toys and bedding. These are comfort items in times of stress and should be part of every pet’s “To Go Bag.”
  • Know where you can evacuate with your pets if needed. Do not leave your pet behind. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet. There are many pet-friendly sheltering options that allow the whole family to stay together.

Be prepared to be safe!