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Hurricane Season 2019

We joke about it a lot. Lots of folks say we really only have two seasons here in Florida- Snowbird season and Hurricane season. But hurricane season isn’t anything to joke about, and it’s upon us again. We all need to begin gathering our hurricane supplies for both ourselves- and our pets now to avoid the madness when a storm is approaching. Here are some things to talk about when it comes to your pet’s safety in the event of a major storm.

Where am I going to go with my family and pets?

According to the Polk County shelter map for 2019, they recommend to shelter in place, if possible, as the “Primary option” during a disaster. Depending on the severity of the hurricane- this could be a reasonable option. Or not. Depends on the classification of the storm, and the structural integrity of your residence and your flood zone. All of these factors need to be considered before you choose to shelter in place. In the event of a catastrophic storm, consider your options carefully.

If you regularly board or kennel your pets for ‘doggy day care’ or routinely use a boarding facility, find out what their policies are in the event of a hurricane. Many facilities may not be able to accommodate pets at all since their team members may need to evacuate too.



Seek out friends or family who live outside of the storm’s path, if possible. Consideration should be given to their ability to house another family, including additional pets. Remember that some families or friends could be allergic to pets, or just don’t have the space. Contact them months in advance prior to hurricane season to make sure that your family and pets will be welcome in the event of a hurricane. I have some more tips on traveling with your pet by car in this blog.


Find a pet-friendly hotel outside of the projected path of the storm. Although this would be an added expense during an already stressful time, having a safe and secure location for your family and pets is well worth the peace of mind. There are hundreds of pet-friendly hotels throughout the state. Below are some websites which can help you select the right hotel for you and your family. Find a few properties in different locations throughout the state that would meet your specific needs. Put their numbers in your cell phone so you have them at the ready if you need to evacuate.

Here are some online resources with listings of pet-friendly accommodations throughout the country.


Evacuation/Emergency Shelter

If you cannot leave the area, but must evacuate your residence, Polk County offers three pet-friendly emergency shelters. Space is limited at these shelters and they will only accept dogs, cats and birds along with their owners. Requirements for the pet shelters are (per the 2019 Polk County Shelter Map):

‘Complete shot records’ for each pet (these will be confirmed upon arrival)

An ‘airline approved’ pet carrier (more on that in a moment)

Food for a minimum of three days for each pet 

A signed agreement confirming the pet will be accompanied by the owner for the duration of the sheltering

Shelter Requirement: Vaccines

Polk County has not defined what vaccinations are required to enter the shelter. We are certain that a rabies vaccine will be required, although it is not clear as to what other vaccines may be needed. We always suggest that pets have all of their ‘core’ vaccines up to date to prevent the spread of infectious disease. When animals are contained in close quarters, like that of a shelter situation, one sick animal can infect dozens, if not hundreds of unprotected pets. We also suggest protecting your pet against the highly contagious Canine Influenza virus.

Shelter Requirement: Airline Approved pet kennel

Each pet will be required to have their own kennel or carrier. The kennels should be large enough so they can comfortably stand, lie down and turn around. I’ve found a good article on selecting the right size kennel for your pet here.

Pet-friendly emergency shelters in Polk County are listed below. There is one in Eagle Lake, One in Lakeland and one in Haines City. These shelters will be strictly pet-friendly.

Lake Region High School in Eagle Lake

Haines City High School

Tenoroc High School– Lakeland

Before heading to one of these shelters, please check with Polk County officials to ensure your specific shelter is open. This can be done by calling the Citizen’s Information Line at (863) 401-2234. To view the entire shelter map, click here. To see other important shelter information, including phone numbers, click here.

Stay in your residence

This option should NEVER be used if you live in an area which is under a mandatory evacuation. ALWAYS follow the direction of your local emergency management officials. Shelter in place only if you are not under a mandatory evacuation, and only if you are positive your residence can withstand the punishment from the storm. DO NOT, EVER leave your pet behind in your residence, nor should you use your pet as an excuse to ignore evacuation orders. Period.

If you are staying within your residence, prepare an area in the interior section of your house for your family to include your pets. As the storm approaches, place your pets in a pet crate with some comfort items such as a blanket, pet bed or favorite toys. Your pets will most likely become anxious and frightened during the height of the storm. If your home is damaged during the storm, a sturdy crate or pet carrier will be the safest place for them, and lessens the potential for escape.

I strongly suggest having each of your pets microchipped. Microchip technology reunites more lost pets with their owners than any other method. If your pet should escape or become lost during a hurricane or for any other reason, a microchip implanted between the shoulder blades of your pet is the most reliable way to have your pet returned to you. If you have moved, or changed phone numbers since your pet was microchipped, contact your pet’s microchip manufacturer to update your contact information.

Determining where you are going to go is just step one. Now, you need to gather your pet’s storm supplies to ensure their health and safety during and after the storm.

Here is your checklist of things you will need for each pet in the event of a major storm- regardless if you evacuate or shelter in place:

Proof of Vaccinations- if you plan on evacuating to a emergency shelter, proof of vaccines will be required. Be sure you check with your local shelters to learn about their specific rules and what else will be required. As I mentioned earlier, these requirements are at the discretion of each county and may change due to the 2018 outbreak of Canine Influenza. We suggest having your pet current on ALL vaccines to keep them protected.

Registration tags

Two-weeks worth of food

Food and water dishes

Manual can opener if your pet eats canned food

Two weeks worth of fresh water

Cat litter, newspaper or other cat litter material

Plastic bags for handling pet waste

2 weeks worth of any prescription medication(s)




Cage/Pet carrier

Current photo of pet

Antibiotic ointment


Adhesive tape such as vet wrap

Comfort items such as chew toys, blankets or pet beds

I will keep my fingers crossed for another quiet hurricane season, but in the meantime, I will be gathering my supplies and calling my relatives on the east coast to let them know I’m heading towards them if a major storm has set a course for central Florida. Please heed my advice and prepare. Your pets will thank you for it.