With four dogs, Yleana Escobar knows getting ready for the hurricane season won’t be easy.
Water, food, medicine, tags and important papers that show the animal is vaccinated all have to be accounted for.
“It’s just like having four extra people to prepare for,” said Escobar, who remembers scrambling for food and water for several rescue animals after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. “I think a lot of people learned from Andrew.”
The lessons that Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe County emergency planners and animal care providers are hoping everyone has learned from past storms: Plan ahead and never leave your pets behind.
“Your pet is your responsibility,” said Becky Herrin, spokeswoman with the Monroe County Sheriff’s office. “Your pet needs to be a part of your evacuation plan. Just like you would never leave a family member behind, you should never leave a pet behind. ”
As Escobar — who was part of a wildlife rescue team in 1992 — found out, planning for a pet is very similar to planning for a person. Miami-Dade County Animal Services offers a checklist to make sure a person is adequately prepared to care for pets.
On the list: a two-week supply of food with a manual can opener and water, bowls for food and water that can attach to a cage, portable carrier or crate, identification including collar, tag, leash, Microchip, picture of you with your pet to prove it’s yours, first aid kit, litter and litter box and cleaning supplies.
“It is never too soon to start preparing,” said Lisa Mendheim, public education coordinator for Broward County Animal Care and Adoption. “There is a lot to do.”
In addition to stocking up on supplies, a pet owner also has to think about things including where a dog can go to the bathroom if the streets are flooded or a storm is barreling down.
“People don’t always think about things like that,” said Mendheim, who added that it was important to identify an area in someone’s home that could be used as a makeshift bathroom for a pet. She also recommended keeping cleaning supplies handy.
Herrin said that if the plan includes evacuating, make sure to find a pet-friendly place to stay in advance — whether it be a pet friendly hotel, shelter or family or friend willing to have guests.
“Everything should be done ahead of time,” she said. “A person needs to know where they are going if the warning comes.”
All counties offer at least one animal-friendly shelter.
“A shelter is an option, but we urge people to look at the option that works best for them,” said Mendheim.
In Miami-Dade there are two options: E. Darwin Fuchs Pavillion at Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition Center, 10901 SW 24th St., for the southern part of the county and Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High, 1410 County Line Rd., for the north.
At both shelters, people can show up with crated or caged cats, dogs, birds, ferrets, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, rats and rabbits. Miami-Dade County requires pet owners to fill out the Pet-Friendly Evacuation Center Form, available at www.miamidade.gov/animals/disaster-preparedness.asp. Each family is limited to four pets and must bring supplies for their animals.
In Broward, pet owners must preregister for the shelter at Millennium Middle School, 5800 NW 94th Ave., Tamarac. The shelter, which is run with the Humane Society of Broward County, can hold 350 people and 500 animals.
In Monroe, pet owners can bring their pets to any of the in-county four shelters that open if a storm is category 2 or weaker. The shelters include: Key West High School, 2100 Flagler Ave.; Sugarloaf School, 225 Crane Blvd.; Coral Shores High School, 89591 Overseas Hwy., and Stanley Switlik, 3400 Overseas Hwy. If the storm is predicted to be stronger and all residents are told to evacuate, pets are allowed at the shelter at Florida International University.
The Humane Society of the United States also offers tips for large animals including cows and horses.
For horses, the website suggests to “permanently identify each horse by tattoo, microchip, brand or photograph.” Keeping records of the horse’s age, sex, breed and color is also important — if a horse should be displaced, the owners would have to be able to prove the animal belongs to them.
From small to large, cats to horses, one of the biggest issues after a storm is not being able to identify an animal. All counties offer microchipping.
“We see it time after time,” Mendheim said. “People fail to do this, and they never see their pet again.”