Florida Animal Shelter Emergency Assistance and Guidelines

Prepare your shelter for hurricane season!

The University of Florida shelter emergency response coordinator is one of the primary information hubs for Florida animal shelters needing help with disaster planning, resources, and training. We coordinate with local, state, and national organizations to assess needs to ensure assistance is provided to shelters both pre- and post-storm.

Annually, we provide information to, and connect shelters with, training or Standard Operating Procedural planning they might need in case of a disaster (ex: transportation/relocation guidelines; State Certified: Pet-Friendly Sheltering Online Training (FL-017) from FL SART; FEMA’s basic online training for emergency responders; Code 3 Associates, etc.).

  • Update your emergency response shelter contact information:
    • What we need is your shelter’s primary point person’s contact information (email, cell, business number, social media/messenger app username) and a secondary contact. Losing power during storms is expected. Cell phone service, while more reliable than landlines, may also be interrupted. Social apps (such as Facebook Messenger, Instagram DM, and WhatsApp) are often our most reliable method for reaching you in certain situations.
    • We will not use this information for any other purpose, and all emergency contact information will remain confidential at UF.

We also maintain a database of brick-and-mortar shelters in the state of Florida. In this database we keep details such as (but not limited to):

  • Emergency contact information (that we routinely ask them to update)
  • Resources they have (crates, food, potable water, vehicles for transport, etc.)
  • Whether or not they have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for disaster response (primarily hurricanes)
  • Facility location (address of each location, county, are they in a flood zone)
  • Environmental concerns (does their shelter flood during a hard rain, do they have outdoor kennels, etc.)
  • If their facility is used as the County’s evacuation shelter for pets

If you need assistance post-landfall (not emergency)

Please exhaust all of your local resources first (Organizations you may have an MOU with or have worked out an emergency plan with, other shelters in the area, Rescues in the area, Volunteers, etc.).

If you have contacted your ESF-17, including surrounding county ESF-17s and they are unable to assist, reach out directly to Florida SARC (State Animal Response Coalition) at the SPCA Florida:

Here’s what you can do to get ready for a storm:  

  • Be ready to take advantage of any pre-storm transport offered so that you can reserve your limited space for post storm victims
  • Transport out any pre-storm animals that are off their stray hold and available for adoption
  • Update and print medical records in case you lose power (place each animal’s record in a plastic sheet protector which can be taped or attached to a carrier)
  • Place ID bands on the animals to avoid confusion during transport (if they are microchipped that is great too as long as the chip number is recorded in their medical history)
  • Gather crates/carriers for transport and/or temporary fostering
  • Ask the community for help with temporary fostering during the storm so you can again free up space in the shelter for post-storm victims
  • Make sure you have enough supplies on hand (food/water) for 7 days in case help is not able to reach your shelter
  • Make sure you know your County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Emergency Support Function (ESF)17 contacts
    • The ESF system is primarily to assist municipal shelters.
    • Private shelters should have a plan to work with your local resources first (other shelters in the area, transport teams, volunteers, etc.) to prep and handle the storm. If your local resources cannot help and it is a dire/emergency/life-threatening to animals situation, you should reach out to your County ESF17 contact and then to FL State Agricultural Response Team (SART) directly if the County cannot help.
    • There may be times when SART is unable to match a service provider with the local need, especially during the first week after a high-impact disaster, so backup plans are important too.

Additional information to help you prepare: