Early next week, Tampa Bay could be slammed with a hurricane. This comes only weeks after Tropical Storm Debby caused flooding and structural damage in June.
With that in mind, animal experts in Hillsborough County say now is the time to make preparations for pets before Isaac arrives.
Carol Childs, founder of the National Humane Society at 4039 Gunn Highway in Carrollwood, often cares for animals after natural disasters. She said having a plan in place before a tropical storm or hurricane hits is crucial.
"Pet owners need to know where shelters are," she said. "I'd rather have a plan and not need it than need it and not have a plan.
A common mistake pet owners make is putting animals in wire cages, Childs said.
"They are better off in the airline carriers with holes in the side," she said. "It will bounce back if it gets hit. The wire ones, if something crushes it, it remains crushed. It makes me sad because the animals can't get out."
There are four pet-friendly shelters that will open after an order from the emergency operations manager in Hillsborough County, said Marti Ryan spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Animal Services.
They are: Shields Middle School in Ruskin, Burnett Middle School in Seffner, Bartels Middle School in Tampa and Sergeant Paul R. Smith Middle School in Citrus Park.
The shelters are only open on a first-come, first-serve basis, Ryan said.
Ryan emphasized finding someone in a non-evacuation zone to keep pets if a pet owner lives in an evacuation zone.
"You don't want to leave animals behind," she said. "They are part of the family, and can't fend for themselves."
Ryan's tips for preparing for pet care before a storm are:
- Make sure shots are up to date, including rabies vaccinations.
- Get an implanted microchip in your pet. If animals run in a storm, their tags can come off, but a microchip can't.
- Get a license tag from the county.
- Special order a crate if you have a big dog.
- Make sure pets have extra medications, especially if they have anxiety medication because they struggle during thunderstorms.
"They are instinctual survivors, but they have been so dependent on us," said Childs of pets. "It's not fair to ask them all of a sudden to have a skill we took from them. If anything goes wrong, they look at you."
To contact the National Humane Society, call 813-695-4777. To contact Hillsborough County Animal Services, call 813-744-5660, or go to http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org.
For more tips on preparing pets for a storm, visit Hillsborough County Animal Services online.