How to keep your pets safe during a hurricane

With Hurricane Florence drawing closer to Georgia and the Carolinas, many people are scrambling to make accommodations for themselves, their families and their pets. Evacuating with pets, or weathering out the storm with them, can be challenging, though knowing what to do ahead of time can make a huge difference.

Here are some general guidelines on how to prepare to care for your furry or feathered loved ones during a big storm.

If You Are Evacuating

Do NOT leave your pets behind.

If it isn’t safe for you to be at home in a natural disaster, it isn’t safe for your pets.

“If you are forced to evacuate, bring your pet with you,” Dick Green, disaster response senior director with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in a statement sent to HuffPost. “Never leave your pet behind.”

Beside the risks during a storm, you never know exactly how long it could be before you get back. During Hurricane Katrina, for instance, some people who fled left their pets behind in a secure area in their homes because they believed they would return in a day or two. When they weren’t allowed back for much, much longer, some of those animals ended up dying of thirst or hunger.

Above all, never leave animals tied or chained outside, which can be a death sentence in the face of rising waters.

RELATED: Florence barrels towards US

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Preparations made ahead of Florence
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Preparations made ahead of Florence
Houses are seen near high tide on September 11, 2018 in on Topsail Island, North Carolina, where many homes, already battling flooding and beach erosion, aren't sure what to expect with the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATLANTIC OCEAN - SEPTEMBER 10: In this NOAA satellite handout image, shows Hurricane Florence (C) as it gains strength in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of Bermuda moving west on September 10, 2018. Hurricane Isaac and Helene can be seen to the east of Florence. Weather predictions say the storm will likely hit the U.S. East Coast as early as Thursday, September 13 bringing massive winds and rain. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
Residents evacuate from coastal areas near Wallace, North Carolina, on September 11, 2018. - Hurricane Florence would deliver a 'direct hit' to the US East Coast, emergency officials warned on September 11, 2018, urging residents to heed evacuation orders and seek shelter from the potentially catastrophic storm. More than one million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been told to flee their homes as the hurricane churns across the Atlantic Ocean towards the coast. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the east coast of the United States, September 10, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
The pumps at the Shell gas station on Western Boulevard featured 'out of gas' signs as people prepared to ride out Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C. (Casey Toth/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
South Carolina National Guard soldiers transfer bulk diesel fuel into fuel tanker trucks for distribution in advance of Hurricane Florence, in North Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Brian Calhoun/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Hurricane Florence seen over the Atlantic Ocean, about 750 miles southeast of Bermuda in this handout photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on September 9, 2018. NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018. Picture taken September 6, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
Boarded up houses are seen ahead of Hurricane Florence� expected landfall, at Holden Beach, North Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Anna Driver
A beachfront home is boarded up ahead of Hurricane Florence, at Holden Beach, North Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Anna Driver
A photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018. Picture taken September 6, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
A county worker drives astride the levy along Lowery Street September 10, 2018 in Lumberton, North Carolina, ahead of Hurricane Florence. In 2016 Hurricane Matthew caused catrostraphic flooding in Lumberton. - More than a million people were ordered to evacuate the path of Hurricane Florence as the Category 4 storm packing winds of 130 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) bore down on the East Coast of the United States. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told up to one million residents of the state's eastern coast to leave their homes ahead of the powerful storm's arrival on Thursday. The governor of neighboring North Carolina also ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks and parts of coastal Dare County while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
The water treatment facility sits along Lowery Street in Lumberton, North Carolina, September 10, 2018. In 2016 Hurricane Matthew caused catrostraphic flooding in Lumberton as well as the water treatment plant, causing thousands without water. - More than a million people were ordered to evacuate the path of Hurricane Florence as the Category 4 storm packing winds of 130 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) bore down on the East Coast of the United States. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told up to one million residents of the state's eastern coast to leave their homes ahead of the powerful storm's arrival on Thursday. The governor of neighboring North Carolina also ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks and parts of coastal Dare County while a state of emergency was declared in Virginia. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Tarek Elshik, left, fills gas cans to fuel a generator to refrigerate insulin for his 10-year-old daughter Yasmeen Elshik's Type 1 diabetes treatment in case power goes out during Hurricane Florence, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at the Exxon station on Western Boulevard in Raleigh, N.C. (Casey Toth/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
Tarek Elshik fills gas cans to fuel a generator to refrigerate insulin for his 10-year-old daughter Yasmeen Elshik's Type 1 diabetes treatment in case power goes out during Hurricane Florence, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at the Exxon station on Western Boulevard in Raleigh, N.C. (Casey Toth/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media following a briefing on Hurricane Florence in the Oval Office at the White House September 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by ZACH GIBSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Vehicles line up September 11, 2018 as they exit Surf City, North Carolina, following a mandatory evacuation order and curfew ahead of the arrival of Hurrican Florence. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
Houses are seen near high tide on September 11, 2018 in on Topsail Island, North Carolina, where many homes, already battling flooding and beach erosion, aren't sure what to expect with the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
Signs warn customers that alcohol sales are suspended at an Exxon station in Harbinger, North Carolina on September 11, 2018. - From Charleston's colonial mansions with finely-crafted balustrades, to fragile Outer Banks beaches, to exalted centers of American history, the tourism-heavy US East Coast is facing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence. (Photo by Alex Edelman / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents evacuate from coastal areas near Wallace, North Carolina, on September 11, 2018. - Hurricane Florence would deliver a 'direct hit' to the US East Coast, emergency officials warned on September 11, 2018, urging residents to heed evacuation orders and seek shelter from the potentially catastrophic storm. More than one million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been told to flee their homes as the hurricane churns across the Atlantic Ocean towards the coast. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Know where you can go with your pets.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend or relative who will take you in, it’s crucial to figure out ahead of time somewhere else you can go with pets.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act mandates that the Federal Emergency Management Agency include plans for pets in preparation for federal disasters. However, there is a lot of confusion around what this law means. It does not mean that private companies, like hotels, have to make special accommodations for pets ― though some hotels may choose to do so in times of crisis. If you are planning to head to a hotel, check ahead of time whether they are accepting pets. You can also check Airbnb for pet-friendly homes by selecting “Pets allowed” under the “House Rules” filter.

The PETS Act also didn’t change regulations around air travel. Though airlines sometimes loosen their restrictions on pets in the face of natural disasters, they don’t always. Look into the individual airline’s policies before attempting to fly with your pet.

Some emergency shelters for people accept pets, but not all do. In some areas, emergency shelters partner with local animal shelters or veterinary offices to temporarily board pets during a storm.

Here are lists of emergency shelters, including information on which ones are pet-friendly and opening as of Wednesday evening, in North CarolinaSouth Carolina and Virginia. Check local media to find more information about specific shelters in your area. Note that some shelters also require proof of specific vaccinations, like rabies shots.

RELATED: Deadliest American hurricanes ever 

15 PHOTOS
15 of the deadliest American hurricanes ever
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15 of the deadliest American hurricanes ever

Hurricane Hugo, 1989: 21 deaths

Hurricane Hugo made landfall as a Category 4 storm in South Carolina. It caused 21 deaths in the US and resulted in $7.1 billion of damage. At the time, it was the costliest storm in US history.

Photo courtesy: Getty

Tropical Storm Allison, 2001: 41 deaths

While not an official hurricane, Allison clocks in as the costliest and deadliest tropical storm in US history, causing 41 deaths and costing more than $5 billion in damage. The storm started over the Gulf of Mexico near Texas, then traveled east, causing floods like the one pictured here in Houston, Texas.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Irene, 2011: 56 deaths

Hurricane Irene, the first storm to hit the US since Ike three years earlier, made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm. The storm eventually made its way up to New York City, bringing flooding -- like the kind pictured here in Puerto Rico -- and causing $7.3 billion in damage overall.

Photo courtesy: AP

Hurricane Floyd, 1999: 57 deaths

Hurricane Floyd was a catastrophic storm because of the rain it brought along. The rain caused extreme flooding from North Carolina on up as the Category 2 storm traveled up the East Coast.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1944: 64 deaths

The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 was also devastating to New England, with 64 deaths and more than $100 million in damage. The storm was a Category 3 as it sped up the coast, hitting the Carolinas, Rhode Island, and Long Island before downgrading to a Category 2 in Maine.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Agnes, 1972: 122 deaths

Hurricane Agnes, as seen in this image made it all the way inland to Pennsylvania. Although it was only a Category 1 storm (with winds from 74-95 mph), it still caused 122 deaths and caused $2.1 billion in damage.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Ike, 2008: 195 deaths

The third costliest storm in US history, with $29.5 billion in damage, occurred in September 2008. Starting off the west coast of Africa, Hurricane Ike made its way over the Caribbean and into the Gulf, making US landfall in Texas as a Category 2 storm

Photo courtesy: Reuters

Hurricane Camille, 1969: 256 deaths

Hurricane Camille formed in the Gulf of Mexico and hit Mississippi as a Category 5 storm. Camille caused more than 256 deaths and clocks in as the second most intense hurricane to hit the US.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

New England, 1938: 256 deaths

Nicknamed "Long Island Express," the storm hit Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm before charging north and hitting Long Island, New York and Connecticut as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm was responsible for more than 256 deaths.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Hurricane Sandy, 2012: 285 deaths

With $71.4 billion in damage, Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in US history. The Category 1 storm pummeled New York City, flooding the city's transportation systems and leaving thousands of homes destroyed.

It's looking more and more like Hurricane Joaquin won't make landfall in the US and join the list of most horrific storms in US history.

Photo courtesy: AP

Hurricane Audrey, 1957: 416 deaths

The U.S. started naming storms with women's names starting in 1953. Hurricane Audrey, the first storm of the 1957 hurricane season was the deadliest of the 1950s. It originated in the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm. This image of the storm shows just how far hurricane imaging has come.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Atlantic-Gulf, 1919: 600 to 900 deaths

This Category 4 storm swept into the Gulf of Mexico right under Key West, Florida(pictured), landing as a Category 3 storm in Corpus Christi, Texas. Anywhere from 600 to 900 people died in that storm.

Hurricane Katrina, 2005: 1,200 deaths

Hurricane Katrina is arguably the most notorious storm of the 21st century. The storm made landfall as a Category 5 near Miami before striking Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. Katrina was the third deadliest, and costliest hurricane in U.S. history with more than 1,200 deaths and $108 billion in damage.

Photo courtesy: Reuters

San Felipe Okeechobee, 1928: 2,500 deaths

This hurricane was the second deadliest in US history, with more than 2,500 deaths. The Category 4 storm made landfall in Palm Beach on September 10, 1928. Puerto Rico got hit hard as well, with winds at 144 mph.

Photo courtesy: NOAA

Galveston, Texas in 1900: 8,000 to 12,000 deaths

The deadliest hurricane in US history happened at the turn of the 20th century. The Category 4 of 5 hurricane -- with winds anywhere from 130-156 mph -- made landfall in Galveston, Texas (pictured), then headed north through the Great Plains. Anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 people died in the storm.

Photo courtesy: Creative Commons

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Prepare what you will bring.

Gather all the supplies you’ll need for your pet ― and yourself, for that matter ― well before the storm hits.

Make sure that pets are wearing ID tags with your contact information and that you have carriers, leashes and a pet “go bag” ready. Of course, the supplies you’ll need will vary depending on the type of animal you have. In addition to a leash (if applicable) and a traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier (preferably one for each pet), Green suggested that a go bag include:

  • Enough pet food for five to seven days in a sealed container

  • At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet

  • Photocopies and/or a USB flash drive of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires

  • Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)

  • Pet-safe cleaning supplies, including disinfectant, garbage bags, wee-wee pads and paper towels

  • Food and water bowls

  • Comfort items, including a blanket and toys

A portable litter box for cats or rabbits would also be a good addition. Head over to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals site for more information about special considerations during natural disasters for less common pets like birds and reptiles.

If You Are Not Evacuating

Even if you aren’t evacuating, you’ll still want to make preparations to ensure your pets are safe in your home.

Prepare to evacuate if necessary.

During a natural disaster, the unexpected can always happen. Have a plan in place, including where you will go, in case you suddenly have to evacuate with your pets, and get that emergency go bag ready.

Bring your pets inside.

You don’t want your animals outside when a hurricane hits.

“All pets should remain inside before, during and after the storm, and they should be wearing a collar and ID tag in case they become skittish and escape,” said ASPCA spokeswoman Alyssa Fleck.

Make sure they’re contained within your home well before the storm hits. During the storm, bring your pets with you into a safe room with no, or few, windows, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises. 

You’ll also want to be able to grab your pets quickly if you have to evacuate. Make sure to have items like leashes and carriers close by and ready to go.

Stock up on supplies.

When you stock up on bottled water and nonperishable foods for yourself, make sure you also get plenty of food and water for any animals who depend on you, plus any medications they take. Don’t forget other types of supplies, like cat litter or small animal bedding.

RELATED: Pets that travel poorly under stress 

7 PHOTOS
Pets that travel poorly under stress and heat
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Pets that travel poorly under stress and heat

Bulldogs

(Photo via Getty)

Pugs

(Photo via Getty)

Shih-tzus

(Photo via Getty)

Boxers

(Photo via Getty)

Burmese

(Photo via Getty)

Himalayans

(Photo via Getty)

Persians

(Photo via Getty)

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Make your pet comfortable.

Big storms can be scary for animals. Try to stay calm around your pets, talk to them in a comforting voice, and have familiar items like blankets, beds and toys readily available. As pet rescue group Red Rover notes, some animals ― especially cats ― may be too spooked to want to cuddle with you. In those cases, let them interact with you on their own terms.

But don’t lose track of them entirely. Cats often cope with stress by hiding, and you don’t want them to end up in places where they could become stuck or you couldn’t get to them immediately if necessary.

Though you may be tempted to tranquilize your pet, that could do more harm than good, since your pet may need to be alert in a worst-case scenario.

Longer-Term Planning

Even if a hurricane is not heading your way right now, it’s never a bad time to prepare to care for your pets during a natural disaster. Here are some things you can do well ahead of any storm to make sure you’re ready if and when catastrophe strikes.

Microchip your pet.

Microchips are tiny implants containing identification information that can be scanned by vet’s offices or animal shelters should your pet become lost. They can be implanted at a vet’s office, and the procedure doesn’t hurt any more than a routine shot. If your pet get a microchip, you’ll then need to make sure the information on the chip stays up to date. You should receive directions on how to do this when your pet receives the chip.

RELATED: Pets ride out Hurricane Irma 

12 PHOTOS
Pets, animals ride out Hurricane Irma
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Pets, animals ride out Hurricane Irma
Ivelisse Soto prepares carying crates for her dogs, Tinzy and Looney, outside Lakeside Elementary School hurricane shelter, which allows pets, in Pembroke Pines, Fla., as powerful Hurricane Irma heads toward Florida on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A Cuban carrying his pet wades through a flooded street in Havana, on September 10, 2017. Deadly Hurricane Irma battered central Cuba on Saturday, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and ripping the roofs off homes as it headed towards Florida. Authorities said they had evacuated more than a million people as a precaution, including about 4,000 in the capital. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Laureen Cikora evacuates her RV in Davie, Fla., with her dog, Spice, to a hurricane shelter that allows pets as powerful Hurricane Irma heads toward Florida on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
LUTZ, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: With the sky above him turning grey and the wind picking up, Ed Questell makes his way into an evacuation shelter at McKitrick Elementary School with his four pet birds as area residents evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma on September 09, 2017 in Lutz, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
People seek shelter from Hurricane Irma with their pets at the West Boynton Park and Recreation Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Residents carry their pets and belongings into a shelter ahead of the downfall of Hurricane Irma in Estero, Florida, U.S. September 9, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A 13 days-old pet pig gets its daily ration of milk before being taken to another house due to the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Caibarien, Cuba September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Army National Guard Spc. Thomas Hogan rescues a dog from a flooded suburb of Orlando in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Florida, U.S., September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Gregg Newton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Prepare a disaster kit or go bag.

See above for what your disaster kit should contain. Green noted that it should be stored in a cool, dry area and that items like food and medication will need to be swapped out periodically to ensure they don’t expire.

Get your pet familiar with a crate or carrier.

Evacuating is far less stressful when your pet isn’t terrified of the carrier ― a response that often arises when the animal associates the carrier only with trips to the vet or other unpleasant car rides. There are many detailed guides on how to get pets comfortable with crates or carriers. Some of the basic steps include leaving the object out all the time so it becomes familiar and getting your pet to associate it with positive experiences like treats.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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