Pet Parents Scramble as Hurricane Dorian Bears Down

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Floridians are about to get hammered by their second major hurricane in three years. Shades of Andrew the forecasters say, as locals scurry for everything from sandbags to sheets of wood to shore up their homes.

“Dorian” clipped Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday and shifted course. It’s expected to slam into Florida’s east coast late Sunday night as a category 4 hurricane. Still drip drying from Hurricane Irma, pet parents in the Sunshine State are taking every precaution.

The Skyes family documented their prep for Dorian’s landfall on YouTube. Loading up on provisions at WalMart, they were stunned to find rows of empty wooden palates where bottled water was once stacked high as a single family home.

“When other people take it [natural disasters] seriously, that’s when I start going, hmmm, maybe I should,” Nicole Skyes said of her initial reaction to the impending storm.

Nicole and her husband, Jay, had better luck at Costco, snatching among the last 24-packs of Kirkland water off the shelf. “We have a lot of horses and cows to give water to,” Nicole said. Dogs, cats and birds round out the couple’s animal menagerie.

Sobered by their hunt for water, the Skyes hunkered down for serious emergency planning to ensure their pets’ well being. Kibble makes the shopping list since their dogs’ everyday food is refrigerated and the power could go out. Hay and feed in their concrete barn was consolidated to one stall to make room for horses and cows needing shelter from the elements. Beneath the removed bales of hay rested a stack of barn stall shutters that needed mounting.

Though not directly in Dorian’s path, west coasters facing the Gulf of Mexico are far from complacent.

“Those outer bands are gonna bring us a ton of rain and a hurricane can turn in the blink of an eye,” said Stephanie Moratto. “I’m not a weather woman, but we have to make sure we’re fully prepared.”

Moratto showcased a lengthy tow trailer big enough to house her ranch animals including chickens, turkeys, cows and horses. “It’d be a tight fit . . . but it’s much safer if we had to evacuate,” Moratto told her followers. The family dogs and cats would ride in the cab of the attached truck.

Regarding evaluation plans, Moratto issues a stern warning: “Don’t leave your dogs in the house if there’s a storm! Have a plan — because they’re children, too.”

This weekend, Moratto will leave the gates to her barn stalls open giving her horses and cows free rein on their property. Moratto is concerned that high winds could collapse her wooden barn, possibly crushing any animals trapped inside. Posts forming the training ring will be disassembled and stowed to prevent them from becoming projectiles. Moratto has also braided identification tags into her horses’ manes or tails. Penelope the pig will join her canine kin indoors.

Most Floridians don’t have a concrete barn or tow-away trailer to help keep their animals safe. But everyone should know that federal law recognizes pets as family members entitled to evacuation. Following the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, Public Law 109-308 was passed in 2006 thanks to a bi-partisan congressional effort. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) mandates that states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents from natural disasters.

Let’s hope Dorian doesn’t come to that.