NEW YORK CITY — Residents forced to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Sandy hits don't have to leave their pets behind during the evacuation, after city officials announced that animals are welcome at city shelters.
The city’s Office of Emergency Management urged pet owners to prepare “go bags” for pets the same way residents should have emergency supplies for themselves.
Owners should pack approximately five days' worth of canned and dried pet food in airtight containers, all medications and vaccination papers, a portable water bowl (there are collapsible kinds), at least one bottle of water, and a favorite toy or blanket to comfort pets at times of stress, according to Sandra DeFeo, executive director for the Humane Society of New York, who advised owners to make these bags last year in preparation for Hurricane Irene.
For cats, she advised creating a makeshift litter box using a disposable roasting pan, with lightweight shredded newspaper substituting for heavier materials like kitty litter or sand.
DeFeo also encouraged anyone with a pet to keep an up-to-date photograph of them in their wallets at all times, along with a veterinarian’s contact information in case of separation.
“The best thing you can do for you and your pet is to plan ahead before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall,” said Dr. Dick Green, director of Disaster Response for the ASPCA, in a statement. “Don’t wait until the last minute to see if the storm will affect your neighborhood. Act now, find your nearest evacuation shelter, and tune in to your local news to monitor the storm’s condition.”
Pet owners are advised to bring cages, vaccination papers, and food and medication with them to the shelters. If they don’t have a cage, pets will be admitted as long as they're on a leash, have a muzzle or are in a carrying case.
For non-portable pets, like fish, Aquariumworld.com advises owners to begin preparing now for the possibility of a power failure. The site suggests cutting off all food 24 hours before the storm hits, in order to minimize waste so that fish can finish fully digesting what's in their systems, thus reducing oxygen demand.
Owners also should complete a partial water change as soon as possible and replace filter pads immediately, according to the site.
In case of a power outage, fish owners are advised to disturb their fish as little as possible to conserve oxygen, and to keep aquariums in the dark, using a dark sheet or blanket to encourage them to rest.
The site also suggests that anyone considering using a generator test their aquarium pumps to make sure they’ll work ahead of time.