By Arden Moore
When hurricanes head for South Florida, Dianne Sauve stays put. She does so to supervise the safety of many pets living in Palm Beach County.
For the past 18 years, Sauve has endured nasty storms such as Irma and Wilma in her role as director of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control.
Hurricane season is underway, with typically the most serious storms striking in September and October. That’s why Sauve unleashes two key words: Plan now.
As the pet parent to four rescues, dogs Bradley and Delilah Rose and cats Grace and Hannah, Sauve knows of the importance of having a disaster preparedness game plan for her pets and herself.
“Because I am required to report to the Emergency Operation Center as leader of the animal services unit, planning ahead is a must,” she says. “Just prior to each hurricane season, I order at least four or five cases of canned cat and dog food. I make sure I have a month’s supply of medications for my pets. My dogs go with a family member and my cats go to my private veterinarian for boarding.”
Each May, she orders flashlight batteries, buys 10 gallons of purified water, fills two propane tanks for her outdoor grill and checks the contents of her hurricane box that contains bungee cords, duct tape, bug spray and a first- aid kit.
“Lastly, I grab my bug-out bag, which includes insurance papers for my house, laptop, chargers for my phone, medications, basic bedding, a few clothes and toiletries,” she says. “As I exit my 1939 home, by now filled with outside furniture and plants, I say a prayer and remind myself that the house has survived many storms and that I know she’ll stand strong until I return.”
The only pet-approved county shelter is located inside the West Boynton Recreation Center at 6000 Northtree Blvd. It can accommodate up to 400 pets and 200 people.
“Because the county currently only has one pet-friendly shelter, we can fill rapidly,” says Sauve. “The pet-friendly shelter should be reserved for those people with no family to assist and for those people with pets who live in evacuation zones, or in housing such as modular units or mobile homes.”
You must register in advance and show proof of residency to bring your pets to the shelter. Keep in mind that only one person per household will be allowed to stay in the pet-friendly shelter, which will provide food. The pets will be housed in a separate area with scheduled times for their owners to visit them.
No reptiles or livestock animals are permitted, and all other members of the household will be directed to stay at the nearby people-only shelter at Park Vista High.
If you send your pet to a kennel or other boarding facility, you should bring carriers for cats, leashes and collars for dogs, up to five days of pet food and medications, water and food bowls, plus light bedding.
If you go to the county shelter, consider bringing for yourself a mat, light bedding, necessary medications, toiletry items, chargers for essential electronics and some items to pass the time, such as books, cards or board games.
To learn more, go to http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/animalcare/Pages/Hurricane.aspx.
And for a list of pet-friendly boarding facilities and hotels to contact in advance, go to http://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/animalcare/pdf/Boarding_Facilities.pdf.
Because space is limited at the county shelter, Sauve encourages pet owners to make arrangements to take their pets and stay with friends or relatives before storms arrive.
She encourages all residents to have a bug-out kit that should include your pets’ food and medications, leashes, spare collars and identification tags in case you get separated. Pack bottled water, three days of clothing and basic toiletry items for yourself as well as copies of your homeowner’s insurance policy, driver’s license and health insurance cards.
During and after a hurricane stay alert and be in safety mode for yourself and your pets.
“Recognize that post-storm fences may be down, dangerous wildlife will be displaced, and outside water sources may be contaminated,” Sauve says. “When you walk your dog on a leash after the storm, keep them out of standing water. Watch where the pets walk because dangerous and sharp debris are prevalent post-storm.”
And remember that the power of the storm not only can rattle you, but may affect your pets’ emotional state and cause them to react any way but calmly.
“Dog bites increase after a disaster,” says Sauve. “Our pets sense any anxiety or stress from their owners and they themselves have experienced mental trauma from the sounds and/or displacement from a storm. Do everything you can to keep your pet calm before, during and after a storm.”
Sauve misses her four pets when she is on the job at the packed shelter during storms, but she knows they are safe so she can focus on caring for pets in need.
“I most enjoy making a difference in the lives of animals in our community and being able to add or strengthen laws that better protect animals,” says Sauve. “I take great satisfaction in knowing that we have worked hard to save the animals in our community that are most at risk.”
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, author, speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. She hosts Oh Behave! weekly on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.ardenmoore.com.