According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the highest frequency of U.S. landfalling hurricanes occurs in September, although hurricanes can begin hitting the U.S. as early as June, which is why the Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1st and runs through November 30th.  June is also National Pet Preparedness Month. As those who live in hurricane-prone states know, preparation is essential in terms of keeping a family safe during natural disasters. Hurricane preparedness is especially key for those with pets. But just how prepared are pet owners when it comes to hurricanes and potential evacuations?  The Special Reports Team at Veterinarians.org administered an online survey to 1,000 pet owners in June 2022 to find out. Discover the results below.     

Methodology

For the purpose of this study, the Special Reports Team at Veterinarians.org surveyed 1,000 pet owners from the 10 most hurricane-prone states in the U.S. These states are those that have seen the most hurricanes from 1851-2020, as tracked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and are in descending order: Florida, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, New York, Mississippi, and Virginia.   

Hurricane Preparedness: How Prepared Are Pet Owners in Hurricane-Prone States?  

Continue reading to discover how the survey results break down overall, as well as more specifically by state, gender, age, and pet type.  

Hurricane Preparedness Overall

  • 41% of pet owners do not have an emergency plan in place for their pet in the event of a hurricane, defined in the survey as a list of pet-friendly shelters and/or a designated alternative caregiver for their pet should they be unable to bring their animal along during an evacuation.
  • 48% of pet owners do not know the location of their nearest pet-friendly evacuation center.
  • 54% of pet owners say their pet is not microchipped, a preventative measure that can assist with reuniting a pet owner with their lost animal.
  • 59% of pet owners do not have a rescue alert sticker posted on the outside of their home to alert rescue personnel to the presence of animals inside the home.
  • 78% of pet owners believe those who leave a pet behind during a hurricane evacuation should be charged with animal neglect/abandonment.
  • In the event of a mandatory evacuation, the majority of pet owners would make use of the home of a family member or friend not in the evacuation zone (36%). A pet-friendly hotel (28%) and pet-friendly evacuation shelter (24%) were also top choices.
  • When it comes to potential hurricane evacuations with their animals, the biggest concern for pet owners is keeping their pet calm in the car during transport (59%). For 28% of pet owners, not having a friend or family member who can take in their pet if needed is a top concern, while dealing with shelter restrictions that prohibit certain breeds or the number of pets a family can bring in is a concern for 25% and 22% of pet owners respectively. Finally, 27% of pet owners cite not knowing where to find information on pet-friendly evacuation centers as one of their top evacuation concerns.
 

Hurricane Preparedness By State

  • Pet owners in Florida are the most prepared when it comes to having a hurricane plan in place for their pet (66%), with a plan being defined in the survey as a list of pet-friendly shelters and/or a designated alternative caregiver for their pet should they be unable to bring their animal along during an evacuation. Other states that top the list include: Louisiana (62%), Georgia (62%), New York (61%), and North Carolina (58%). 
  • The least prepared state is Texas, where only 52% of pet owners have a hurricane plan in place for their pet, followed by South Carolina (53%), Alabama (55%), Mississippi (57%), and Virginia (57%).
  • More pet owners in Florida know the location of their nearest pet-friendly evacuation shelter than in any other surveyed state (65%), while the state with the lowest number of pet owners who know this information (46%) is Louisiana. 
  • Is it okay to leave a pet behind during a hurricane evacuation? In Florida and New York, 1 in 5 pet owners (20%) believe it is. In Georgia and Mississippi, 18% of pet owners agree, as do 16% of pet owners in South Carolina. These numbers are higher than the 14% of pet owners across all surveyed states who echoed the same sentiments.
  • Which pet owners would actually leave their pet behind during a hurricane evacuation, though? The highest prevalence of pet owners who would leave their pet behind during a hurricane evacuation is seen in New York, where 1 in 5 pet owners (20%) say they would do so. Pet owners in Mississippi (19%), Georgia (18%), and Florida (16%), say they would act similarly. These figures are higher than the 15% of pet owners across all surveyed states who would take this action. 
  • The highest prevalence of pet owners who would not leave their pet behind during a hurricane evacuation is seen in Louisiana, where 90% of pet owners say they would not do so. This high rate is also seen in Alabama (88%), North Carolina (88%), and Texas (86%), the figures of which are higher than the 85% of pet owners across all surveyed states who would not leave their pet behind.  
  (Please note: Veterinarians.org strongly encourages pet owners to NEVER leave pets behind in the event of a natural disaster evacuation. A pet can end up lost, injured, or worse if left on their own, while animals tethered to poles or trees or contained inside kennels have no way of escaping high waters and finding safety. Pet owners should ALWAYS bring pets along when evacuating or leave them in the care of a trusted individual outside of the evacuation zone).    

Hurricane Preparedness by Gender

  • Male pet owners are more hurricane-prepared than female pet owners, with 63% of men having a hurricane emergency plan in place for their pet (defined in the survey as a list of pet-friendly shelters and/or a designated alternative caregiver for their pet should they be unable to bring their animal along during an evacuation) compared to 56% of women.
  • More men than women also know the location of their nearest pet-friendly evacuation shelter (58% vs. 49%).
  • In the event of an evacuation, male pet owners favor the use of pet-friendly evacuation shelters (30% of male respondents), while female pet owners prefer the home of a family member or friend (41% of female respondents).
 

Hurricane Preparedness by Age

  • Pet owners under the age of 35 are the most hurricane-prepared when it comes to their pets. Among this age demographic, 66% of respondents aged 18-24 and 63% of those aged 25-34 have an emergency plan in place for their pets in the event of a hurricane and potential evacuation (defined in the survey as a list of pet-friendly shelters and/or a designated alternative caregiver for their pet should they be unable to bring their animal along during an evacuation), while the least prepared age group are pet owners 45 and over, only half of whom have such a plan in place.
  • More pet owners aged 18-24 know the location of their nearest pet-friendly evacuation shelter (63%) than any other age group, while among those 54 and over, only 37% of pet owners know this information.
 

Hurricane Preparedness by Pet Type

  • Pet owners in multiple species households (households featuring both dogs and cats) are more likely to have an emergency plan in place for their pets when compared to single species households (68% vs. 54% of dog owners and 53% of cat owners), with a plan being defined in the survey as a list of pet-friendly shelters and/or a designated alternative caregiver for their pet should they be unable to bring their animal along during an evacuation.
  • One of the top 5 evacuation concerns for pet owners in multiple species households are pet-friendly evacuation shelters that have restrictions on the number of pets a family can bring with them.
 

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe During a Hurricane 

Preparation is key to keeping you and your pets safe during natural disasters. Below are essential safety tips to follow to help with hurricane preparedness.   

Make a Hurricane Safety Plan

Identify the pet-friendly evacuation shelters in your area and reach out to the facilities to learn about any requirements in place for pet boarding (e.g. if they require proof of vaccinations, flea and tick treatment, etc.). Be sure to also ask if there are any breed restrictions in place, and if pets must be contained inside a carrier/crate. You may also want to identify areas outside of the evacuation zone (pet-friendly hotels, a friend or family member’s home) where you can take shelter while the hurricane passes.  Additionally, designate an alternative caregiver for your pet in the event that you’re not home when mandatory evacuation orders are issued. This can be a neighbor, family member, or friend who is able to access your home and take your pet to safety.    

Prepare an Emergency Kit for Your Pet (Including Medical Records and Pictures)

At the end of this article, we’ve detailed the items that should go in your pet’s emergency kit. One of the most important items you should include are your pet’s medical records, particularly their vaccination records, as some shelters will not let your pet enter the facility without proof of being vaccinated.  Be sure to also have pictures of you and your pet on hand, whether on your phone or in protective plastic sleeves. This will help people identify your pet if they get lost and can also help you establish ownership if you need to collect your dog from an animal shelter.  Finally, remember to keep your veterinarian’s contact information stored on your phone in case you need to reach out to them at any point.   

Microchip Your Pet

In the event that you and your pet are separated, a microchip can potentially help you reunite with them. The average cost of microchipping a pet runs around $50 and includes both the procedure and the registration. When a lost pet is found by a vet, an animal control worker, or a rescue group, the individual will typically scan the pet for a microchip, and you’ll be notified that your pet has been found. You can view a list of microchip companies here  

Use an Emergency Sticker

Emergency stickers, also known as ‘Pet Rescue Alert Stickers or Pet Finder Stickers,’ are typically affixed to the front door or a front window of your home and help to alert rescue personnel of any animals that may be inside a home.  While your pets should always be with you when you evacuate your home, there may be times when mandatory evacuation orders are issued while you’re away from home. If an alternative caregiver such as a neighbor, family member, or friend is unable to get to your pet in time, an emergency sticker can make rescue personnel aware that there may potentially be animals inside the home who need to be brought to safety.    

Download the FEMA App

The FEMA app provides real-time alerts from the National Weather Service, emergency safety tips, and the ability to search for emergency shelters and disaster recovery centers in your area   

Stay Calm and Evacuate with Caution

In times of high stress, pets can become anxious and skittish. Sometimes, this may cause an animal to escape the house and run away in fear. For this reason, it’s important to always keep your pet in a carrier/crate or on a collar and leash when evacuating your home. It may also be helpful to ‘rehearse’ an evacuation so that your pet can become familiar with the routine.  Staying calm can also help relieve your pet’s stress. Pets take their cues from their owners, and if you’re calm, then your pets will feel more secure and better able to relax.    Above all: NEVER leave your pets behind if you’re forced to evacuate your home. A pet can end up lost, injured, or worse if left on their own, while animals tethered to poles or trees or contained inside kennels have no way of escaping high waters and finding safety.  ALWAYS bring your pets with you when evacuating. If you’re unable to take them to an evacuation shelter for whatever reasons, leave them in the care of a trusted individual outside of the evacuation zone.    

What to Include in Your Pet’s Emergency Kit

Having an emergency kit prepared in advance makes potential hurricane evacuations with your pet easier.  Here are the items that should be included in your pet’s emergency kit:
  • Traveling Carrier/Crate
  • 3-7 Day Supply of Food (food should be kept in an airtight, waterproof container and be nonperishable—don’t forget the can opener if needed)
  • 3-7 Day Supply of Water
  • Food Bowl
  • Water Bowl
  • Pet Medications (including heartworm preventative and flea and tick preventative)
  • Medical Records (including ownership documentation, proof of vaccinations, and rabies certificate)
  • Veterinarian’s Contact Information (stored on phone, or written down in the event your phone is unavailable) 
  • A Picture of You and Your Pet (in the event that you and your pet get separated – including yourself in the picture helps to document ownership) 
  • First Aid Kit (bandage tape, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, etc.)
  • Collar with Up-to-Date ID Tag
  • Harness/Leash
  • Sanitation Items (litter box, litter, potty pads, paper towels, poop bags, trash bags, etc.)
  • Grooming Items (comb, brush, towel, shampoo
  • Comfort Items (treats, toys, beds, blankets, etc.) 
 

Where to Find Pet-Friendly Shelters

In the event that you’re forced to evacuate your home, do not leave your pets behind. A pet can end up lost, injured, or worse if left on their own, while animals tethered to poles or trees or contained inside kennels have no way of escaping high waters and finding safety.  Websites like Pets Welcome, BringFido, and Pet Friendly Travel can help you locate pet-friendly evacuation shelters in your area. A Google search for ‘pet friendly evacuation shelters near me’ can also offer numerous options.    Remember that pet-friendly hotels and airbnbs are an option as well.  Remember to always contact a shelter or hotel beforehand to learn of any requirements the facility might have in place, such as proof of your pet’s vaccinations and flea and tick treatment. Some facilities may also have breed restrictions in place or may require that your pet be contained in a carrier/crate while inside the facility.  Alternatively, you may also consider identifying a family member or friend outside of the evacuation zone who is willing to take in you and your pet.      The survey featured in this report was administered online through Pollfish, ran from June 3-10, 2022, and featured no less than 1,010 respondents.