If you have a pet, you need to bring it with you if you evacuate.
That’s what Beaufort County Animal Services, as well as veterinary hospitals and shelters across the county, are saying.
It’s not a good idea to wait the week of to make arrangements for your pets, but if you waited, “you gotta make that phone call,” said Tallulah Trice, director of Beaufort County Animal Services.
Beaufort County Animal Services will not accept owner surrenders days prior or during Hurricane Florence because shelters need to evacuate too.
Due to Hurricane Harvey, most of the department’s resources are over inundated and local staff has to focus on the 400 animals already at the shelter, according to Tallulah Trice, director of Beaufort County Animal Services.
On average, there are 300 reports of animals abandoned in the area after hurricanes and tropical storm, she said.
Beaufort County Animal Services and Hilton Head Humane will go into homes after any storm, as they did after Hurricane Matthew, to check on reports of animals left behind, feral cats and other animal needs.
But still, Trice says that anyone who owns household pets and is evacuating needs to take the pets with them.
After seeing dogs left behind drown in their owners’ backyards after Hurricane Matthew and Irma, Trice said she’s taking this matter seriously.
“We had a lot of abandoned animals prior to Hurricane Matthew,” Trice said. “It’s just frustrating when you go up and there’s a dog, dead and drowning. Instead, go buy a crate, bring it with you. It’s far cheaper to buy a crate than to pay an animal cruelty fine.”
For those who abandon their animals, such as chaining up their dog in a backyard without food or water, they will be issued two citations — animal cruelty and abandonment.
You could be fined up to $1,000 and receive a criminal charge for these offenses, Trice said.
Trice said that there are a lot of avenues outside the county where people can get help for their pets.
“There’s people opening up houses across the state for people with pets, if they can try sites like Airbnb or VRBO,” she said. “Even if they say they’re not pet friendly, just ask. You’d be surprised how many people will open their doors.”
Even if you have large animals such as horses, it’s important to call around and see where the best accommodations are because, thanks to social media, there are options, Trice said.
Trice also recommended that if people know where they’ll be evacuating to, they should call local animal shelters and boarding facilities and ask if they can house their animals for a few days until the storm passes.
“Just reach out. Social media is awesome in this situation,” she said. “Someone will assist y’all, you just have to ask and they’ll expand their capabilities.”
In the event of an evacuation, Trice said pet owners should:
▪ Pack plenty of food and fresh water
▪ Make sure rabies shots are up to date
▪ Attain all vaccination records ... you’ll need them if you plan to use a boarding facility or shelter
▪ Buy a crate ... you can resell it online after the storm
▪ Identify your pets. If your pets are not microchipped, write some identifications with contact information in magic marker on their collars
▪ Photograph your pet. Carry a photo of your pet for identification purposes