Preparing for natural disasters with your pets

- All Floridians need a plan in case a hurricane heads our way.

For many, that evacuation plan means making sure the people and pets in a family seek shelter together.

"Our homes are replaceable. Our animals are not," said Vetsports spokesman Kevin Basso.

More and more, emergency services are having to plan to shelter both people and pets.

"People are going to be stressed out, they're going to risk their lives and not evacuate because the government's not ready to help them take care of their pet," said University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine Executive Director John Haven.

Haven and emergency planners in the Bay Area, want to make sure people in Florida aren't forced to choose between leaving a pet behind or facing off with a natural disaster.

On Sunday emergency responders held their annual hurricane response simulation at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds.

To make it as real as possible, more than 100 volunteer "victims" and their four legged friends arrived to seek shelter.

Emergency responders had a chance to practice before hurricane season actually rolls in.

Dogs, cats and even livestock were triaged, treated and moved into shelter space right alongside their people.

Officials are also trying to tackle another major pet problem during a storm: how to track the people and pets that are displaced, and how to reunify those who end up separated.

"Owner reunification with their pets has always been a problem in a disaster," said Haven.

On Saturday volunteers tested out new software that aims to link people and pets during a natural disaster.

As victims rolled in, responders entered physical descriptions of animals, addresses, names and telephone numbers into the database, then linked everything to a unique barcode.

The barcodes are then printed on hospital-style bracelets that go around wrists, collars and bridles.

Officials hope the new system will make it easier to reunite pets and people separated by a storm.

"Hopefully it can be used in the rest of the country if it's successful here," said Haven. "The people are going to keep their pets, the tax payers aren't going to have to pay as much in recovery because we did a better job in mitigation up front so everybody wins."

Up Next:


Up Next

  • Preparing for natural disasters with your pets
  • Pride kicks off with new parade location
  • Arson suspected in string of Palmetto St. fires
  • Convicted sex predator back behind bars
  • Convicted killer gets do-over 30 years later
  • Vigil held tonight remembering 11-year-old Janiya Thomas
  • Texas' first certified therapy dog offers comfort to mourners
  • Police investigating apparent drowning
  • St. Pete Pride Weekend wraps up
  • Uber driver accidentally discharges gun at water park