Are your pets prepared if a disaster were to strike Hawaii Island? In recent weeks, Hawaii County has experienced wildfires, flooding, minor earthquakes, severe weather, and we currently have two hurricanes approaching our island.
Most pet owners consider their furry companions to be members of the family and are not willing to leave them behind in the event of a disaster. This became heart wrenchingly clear when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and hundreds of pet owners decided to shelter in place rather than leave their pets behind. Although officials differ on the exact number of animals killed in the storm, it’s estimated that more than 500,000 domesticated animals died as a result of Hurricane Katrina and more than 13,000 pets that were rescued were never reunited with their owners.
Here ‘s how you can prepare your family AND your pets in the event of a disaster here on Hawaii Island.
Have a Plan
If you have to evacuate due to a wildfire, hurricane, or other disaster, take your pets with you. Plan ahead of time where you’ll go in the event of an evacuation. Determine if you’ll need to make arrangements with friends or family ahead of time for them to care for your animals or for you and your pets to stay with them. Have a back up plan of alternate shelter locations that work for both you and your pets.
Also, think ahead to what would happen in case you are injured and unable to care for your animals. Make arrangements ahead of time with a neighbor, relative, or friend to have someone evacuate and/or care for your pets should you be unable to do so.
Hawaii Island Pet Friendly Hurricane Shelters
Here’s a list of the pet-friendly hurricane shelters on Hawaii Island. Note these are shelters that have been identified as pet friendly, but not all of them may be open during an actual disaster. Hawaii County Civil Defense determines which shelters will open, so stay tuned to official updates via the radio or the internet.
It’s important to note that from an emergency management point of view, hurricane shelters and evacuation centers are very different. According to Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira, pets are allowed at designated pet-friendly hurricane shelters but not evacuation centers, which are used in the event of a wildfire or other type of disaster. For example, during the recent Kawaihae wildfire, an evacuation center was opened in Waimea but pets were not allowed.
Even at pet-friendly shelters pets will be required to be in crates or carriers and you’ll need to provide food and water for your pets.
- North Kona: Kealakehe High School
- South Kona: Konawaena High School
- Ka‘u: Ka‘u High School and Pahala Elementary School
- Hamakua: Honoka‘a High and Intermediate School, Kalanianaole Elementary
- South Hilo: Hilo High School, Waiakea High School
- Puna: Keaau High and Middle Schools, Pahoa High and Intermediate School
Make a Pet Disaster Kit
In addition to having a disaster kit for your family, make a separate disaster kit for your pets. It should include the following:
Food: Have at least a 7 to 10 day supply of food on hand in an airtight waterproof container. Animal care organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and the American Kennel Club recommend at least a three-day supply of food.
Keep in mind that in our island environment, different types of disasters may affect shipping and transportation, so it’s best to be stocked up for at least a week, if not two weeks.
Water: Have at least a 7 to 10 day supply of water on hand for your animals, in addition to water for you and your family.
Medication: If your pets require taking medications on a regular basis be sure to keep their medicine in a watertight container.
First aid kit: Pet first aid kits are similar to human first aid kits, with a few additions. You’ll want to include corn syrup for hypoglycemia, a muzzle, pepcid ac, and Dawn dish soap (to wash off any toxic residue.) It’ also a good idea to invest in a pet first aid book to keep as a reference.
Hygiene: Good sanitation is key in the aftermath of a disaster. Include cat litter or puppy pads, newspapers, chlorine bleach and trash bags in your pet disaster kit. You can make your own bleach disinfectant by mixing nine parts water to one part bleach. Make sure you don’t use scented or colored bleaches as those have additional chemicals.
Carrier(s): It’s essential to have a pet carrier or crate for each of your animals. If you have to evacuate to a shelter, your pet will need to be confined to its crate or carrier for safety reasons. You’ll want to make sure that your pet can stand, turn around, and lie down in their crate.
Identification: Double check that your pet’s collar is in good condition and that he/she has identification tags. Keep back up leashes, collars, and ID tags in your pet disaster kit.
It’s a great idea to get your pet microchipped. Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary provides low cost microchipping during their spay/neuter clinics and you can also get your pet microchipped through the Hawaii Island Humane Society or your vet.
Make copies of your pet’s adoption records, dog license number, and microchip information and store it in a waterproof bag or container. Be sure to include pictures of you with your animals in case you become separated from your pet and need to show proof of ownership.
Preparing for your pet’s needs ahead of time will help reduce the potential of your pet becoming lost or injured during a disaster. You can find more information on pet safety during disasters at www.Ready.gov.
Image courtesy of Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary.