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TAMPA, Fla. – With hurricane season starting Sunday, doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are reminding families to remember their pets when making household emergency plans for disasters.

"Having an emergency plan for every member of your family, including your pets, is vital before a disaster strikes," said Dr. Jennifer Welser, chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners. "Talk with your family veterinarian to create an emergency plan specific to your pet's needs."

During Hurricane Katrina, it is estimated more than 250,000 pets were separated from their families. That's one reason out of many that doctors from BluePearl recommend speaking with your veterinarian about micro-chipping your pet. Micro-chipping helps ensure a pet can be quickly identified and reunited with his or her family in such situations.

Besides the destruction left in their paths, natural disasters can cause lengthy power outages and water shortages. Since veterinarians may also be forced to evacuate, pet parents should make sure to have on hand at least a two-week supply of pet's medications, food and drinkable water.

During a disaster, BluePearl Veterinary Partners specialty and emergency 24-hour hospitals remain open unless required to evacuate. BluePearl hospitals are not evacuation shelters and only provide emergency and specialty treatment for pets.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 until November 30.

Here are some additional tips recommended by BluePearl doctors:

CREATE AN EMERGENCY KIT FOR YOUR PET BEFORE A DISASTER

  • 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, veterinary clinics, 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.

DURING A DISASTER

  • 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 certain items do please check with the shelter.
  • 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.

AFTER A DISASTER

  • 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. Be aware; 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.

For more information about BluePearl Veterinary Partners

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