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Preparing For Hurricanes: Hillsborough County Supplies Free Pet 'Go-Bag' To Residents

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Now is the time to make plans to prepare for the possibility of a tropical storm or hurricane. For people with pets, that requires some extra work.

CW44's Price McKeon explains, a guideline for Hillsborough County's Pet Resource Center offers residents a free bag of pet supplies with a checklist in it to help prepare pet owners for a possibility of a hurricane.

"Everybody should have a plan, not only their families, but their pets," said the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center's Director, Scott Trebatoski. He added, that checklist aims to guide pet owners as they get ready for the possibility that a hurricane could force them to evacuate at a moment's notice.

Trebatoski continued, "The checklist is always good because I think you always get the really big things, a leash, a collar, crate, all that stuff but then, you know, if they're at the end, going, 'oh my goodness, my dog has seizures and I forgot to bring his medicine.'

Pet owners should keep on hand during hurricane season a bag that includes about a week supply of pet food, plus their animal's food and water bowls, any medications, toys, treats and more.
A storm can shake up animals so Trebatoski suggests, adding something that could help comfort your pet. "You know, sometimes the best thing to do is to take an article of clothing like a t-shirt or something that's been worn, and not that's clean so it has your scent on it." This can be particularly comforting to your pet.

If you do evacuate, Hillsborough County's Emergency Management Director says a shelter should be a last resort for any resident - pet, or no pet. If a shelter is your last resort, Trebatoski says residents need to know that not every shelter accommodates animals. "You may think there's one right down the street from you, but it may not be pet-friendly and then you'll be redirected somewhere else." He says this year if needed, the county is prepared to open up 17 pet-friendly shelters.

Trebatoski elaborates, "So when you go to a shelter, you would be required to have a crate or a carrier for your animal," that's not the only thing required to use one of those shelters. Owners also need to bring proof of their pets current rabies vaccination, and license for dogs and cats. Owners also need to place their pet on a leash or in a carrier. Remember that bag of supplies that checklist helps pack? Bring that too.

And finally, Trebatoski explains, "Pets are kept in a separate room, but the owners are responsible for caring for them so they would be on a schedule to come in and care for the pets." He emphasizes that it's best for pet owners to make multiple plans and over-prepare now more than ever, because of the pandemic. "Plan for your primary, but also have a secondary and maybe even a third backup plan."

As a reminder, hurricane season runs through the end of November. Hillsborough County residents can request that free bag with the checklist by calling 813-744-5660.

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