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A Safe Haven from Hurricanes for Families and Pets

It takes months and years of planning and practice with partners to make sure we can accommodate families and their pets at our shelters.

Man’s best friend finds his way to Red Cross shelter in Onslow County

One thing that many people worry about when they need to evacuate is whether they can bring along their four legged family – it is not safe for your pet to leave them behind when you evacuate. The Red Cross works with local partners, both government and non-government, to allow companion animals in shelters, to encouraging people to evacuate their homes and move to safer locations in coastal areas.

“What we have found, over many years of responding to evacuations, is that people are less likely to evacuate if they cannot bring their family pets, said Barry Porter, Chief Executive of the American Red Cross of central and eastern North Carolina. "We’ve developed a number of ways to make that happen, the best way to keep your pets safe is to be responsible. Owners should create a disaster kit for pets that includes carriers or crates, food, leashes, treats and toys, medications and anything else your pet may need for several days.”

When the Red Cross and our partners sheltered hundreds of people in eastern North Carolina during and in the hours before Hurricane Arthur, many were places where families could feel safe from the storm, even the family pet. The bonus is that the family, other residents and Red Cross staff have the pleasure of the calming presence of companion animals.

Charlotte Rodriguez is a Red Cross volunteer who spent the night in a Red Cross shelter Thursday night as the storm made landfall. “The staff loves greeting the puppies, kittens and dogs. Onslow County is integral to our being able to manage an animal population. All in all, I think having pets here is a positive thing for our shelter community,” Rodriguez said.

The Jacksonville Commons shelter took on a slightly different role when a lost puppy, nicknamed Arthur, of course, was found wondering in the storm and delivered to the shelter. With Jackie Sickle and Rachel Collins from Onslow County Animal Services on hand, the team was able to provide a safe place for Arthur to ride out the storm, and arrange for his care until his owner can be located.

Making shelters safe for people and pets is critical in an evacuation, because it helps move people out of harm’s way, and there are few more harmful things than a hurricane.

When evacuating to a pet friendly shelter families are asked to bring a crate or carrier and leash for each pet as well as treats, toys, and comfort items that your pet might need to feel safe and comfortable. Your kit should also include water for your animal, just like it should for your family.

Read more about how to prepare your pet for a disaster

Read more about family preparedness