TAMPA, Fla. – It’s still not clear if Hurricane Irma will hit Florida, but a Tampa veterinary company is urging pet owners to start making preparations.

BluePearl Veterinary Partners urge people who live in an evacuation zone or a place prone to flooding to find people who live on higher ground.

“Your pets are your responsibility just as much as the other members of your family,” said Dr. Sonja Olson, a senior clinician in emergency medicine for BluePearl. “Part of that responsibility is to be prepared.”

BluePearl’s veterinary hospitals in Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon and Sarasota plan to stay open 24 hours each day.

The company recommends becoming familiar with pet-friendly emergency shelters in the area, but remember they are the last resort. BluePearl recommends having pets stay with friends.

Pet owners may also want to scout out pet-friendly hotels.

Checklist: Your hurricane season supply kit

BluePearl sent out the following tips:

  • Make sure you have pet carriers. For cats, don’t forget the litter box (portable ones are available).
  • All these preparations become even more important if your pets include bearded dragons, cockatoos or other exotic or unusual species.
  • In addition to your own box of emergency supplies, stock a pet hurricane box with leashes, food bowls, water and sealable bags for extra food. Don’t forget favorite blankets, bedding or some toys that will make them feel better. Think comfort.
  • Also, put together a pet first aid kit, which can include bandaging material, antibiotic cream and tweezers.
  • Don’t overlook the veterinary documents you should have ready to take with you. These include your veterinarian’s phone number, your pets’ vaccination histories, your pets’ microchip registrations and records detailing any chronic illnesses.
  • Pack the medicines your pets take, in the original bottles.

BluePearl also listed a few things not to do:

  • Don’t change your mind about evacuating at the last minute and find yourself driving through the storm. Driving in the storm can be more dangerous than staying put.
  • Don’t say at the last minute, “I’ll just board Fido at the vet’s office.” Your family veterinarian may not be open and if they are, they may be fully booked. Also, BluePearl hospitals are not set up to be shelters. They’re open so the staff can provide treatment to injured and ill pets during a time of need.

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