Don’t wait, prepare for pets, Hurricane Irma now

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As Hurricane Irma barrels toward Florida, doctors of Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists are encouraging pet owners to ensure they have a household emergency plan, which includes their pets.

“Proper planning by pet owners could help save the lives of many animals if this hurricane should hit Florida coastlines,” said Dr. Ira Zaslow, a board-certified specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care and medical director of Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists. “When planning for an emergency like a hurricane, people need to make sure their pets are included.

The Louisiana SPCA estimates that over 250,000 pets were separated from their owners and approximately 15,000 animals were rescued after Hurricane Katrina. The total number of animals who died is unknown, though it is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. 

When hurricanes hit, pet owners often find out the hard way that shelters may not be pet friendly.  Owners should be fully prepared if an evacuation is ordered by the state of Florida. Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists recommends for pet owners to find the closest pet-friendly evacuation shelter and to make sure they have the required documentation. If a shelter is pet-friendly, pet owners are usually required to provide their pets medical records, including vaccination documentation. 

If the hurricane does make landfall, some veterinarians may be forced to evacuate, as well. That’s why it is important for pet owners to ensure they have at least a two-week supply of food and water for their pets and any medications their pets are prescribed. If pet owners decide to ride out the storm and take shelter in their homes, they should contact their family veterinarian to ensure they have a sufficient plan to include the safety of their pets.

Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists will remain open throughout the storm. LVS is not a shelter, but LVS will be open to see and treat emergency cases.

Here are some additional tips recommended by Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists doctors:


  • Keep documentation of your pet’s vaccination history in the emergency kit.
  • Have a current photograph of your pet in the kit.
  • Keep a checklist in the kit of items to pull together when a storm is imminent, including these:
    • Collar: Make sure your pet’s collar has an identification tag with your contact information.
    • Leash: Use a leash if you evacuate or bring your pet to a shelter because pets can become easily disoriented if they slip away from you. This is because the scents that pets use to determine where they are and how to get home are often washed or blown away during storms.
    • Carrier: Have a properly sized pet carrier for each animal handy. Carriers should be large enough for the animal to stand and turn around.
    • Medications: Have a list of medications and care instructions to bring with you.
    • Other: Make a list of other items to add at the last minute such as food, bowls, water and cleaning supplies.
  • Have an evacuation strategy: Have a list including addresses and phone numbers of specialized pet shelters, animal control shelters and friends and relatives out of harm’s way who are potential refuges for your pet during a disaster. Familiarize yourself with the location of each so if you need to evacuate, you can plan your route accordingly.


  • Gather together in one place all items on your pet’s emergency checklist. A laundry basket is easy to carry and a good size for this purpose.
  • Animals brought to a pet shelter may be required to have any or all of the following:
    • Leash and collar with  identification tag
    • Rabies tag
    • Identification on all belongings
    • Suitable carrier or cage
    • Ample supply of food, water and food bowls
    • Necessary medications and specific, written care instructions
    • Newspapers, trash bags and other supplies for clean-up
  • Pet shelters will be filled on first come, first-served basis.  Call ahead and determine availability.
  • Bring pets indoors well in advance of a storm. Reassure and calm them throughout.
  • Monitor your pets’ behavior, because animals can become defensive or aggressive due to the stress of the situation.


  • Walk pets on leashes until they become re-oriented to the area. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and pets could easily be confused and become lost.  Also, downed power lines, debris, snakes and other critters brought in with high water can all pose a threat for animals after a disaster.
  • If your pet is lost during a disaster, contact your local animal control office to find out where lost animals are being housed. Bring along the picture of your pet and information about the microchip.

About Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists
Lauderdale Veterinary Specialists is a 24-hour veterinary emergency, critical care, referral hospital and imaging center serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami Dade counties. Their services include: emergency, critical care, internal medicine, neurosurgery, neurology, ultrasound, CT-scan, digital radiography, bereavement counseling, as well as, soft tissue, orthopedic and reconstructive surgery. LVS can be reached at 954.641.1100 and is located at 3217 NW 10th Terrace, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309.

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