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Take care of your pets!

Caring for a pet requires some of the same early planning as you need for the rest of the family. Taking care of some tasks now can make it easier during the hectic time if a storm approaches.

If you put your pet in a kennel, most will require proof of current vaccinations.

Many places that will take pets also require a leash, food and water bowls, newspapers or plastic bags for cleaning up and any medication. The pet's toys must be labeled.

Leaving pets alone during the hurricane should be the absolute last resort. They stand a good chance of being hurt or killed, or may escape and become lost if your home is damaged. At the very least, they could be terrorized by the storm.

When gathering what you'll take with you in an evacuation, also get what your pets will need. This should include about a week's worth of food, bottled water, a can opener if the food is canned, a sturdy carrier, leash or harness, and litter and litter box for cats.

Also include any medication the animal may need. Keep your pet's vaccination records with your other important documents. You should take a recent photo of the pet for identification.

Be sure the animals have identification tags and, if possible, a location and phone number of your evacuation destination. If you and your pets are separated someone can contact you.

Bring your pets inside early. They can sense the coming bad weather and may grow anxious.

Use the same safety precautions during the storm as for your family such as staying away from large windows and remaining in a room with no exterior walls.

If you have a carrier or crate for your pet, consider letting the animal use that to provide a sense of security.

Never, ever, leave a pet outdoors during a storm.

If you have absolutely no choice but to leave your pets behind, keep them in a room away from large windows. Leave toys, bedding and other things the pets are familiar with.

Make sure there is plenty of water and food in containers that are self-feeding. Large dogs may be able to drink from a partly filled bathtub.

Also, replace a chain choke collar with a nylon or vinyl collar.

Even if your pets normally get along, separate them if you have to leave them behind. The anxiety of a storm could alter their normal behavior.

If you have a bird, make sure it's in a cage, and ask a veterinarian about special feeders. Birds must eat every day.

After the storm, keep your pets secured inside, on a leash or inside a fenced yard. Familiar landmarks and scents could be changed and they could be lost if they wander off.

Sometimes the trauma of the storm can change the behavior of pets. Normally placid, friendly dogs can become aggressive or defensive.

Also, wild animals could be displaced by the storm and may be more common.

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