By Michelle Sherrow
Just days after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Richmond, Virginia, shook the Eastern seaboard, including PETA's offices in Norfolk, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., the region is now bracing for Hurricane Irene, which is expected to strike the Carolina coast sometime on Saturday. Already, parts of North Carolina are under mandatory evacuation orders.
Staffers at PETA's headquarters in Norfolk are bracing for the storm.Brandi, Bubbles, and Marshall, the three cats who live at the office, are ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. The cats' carriers—one for each cat—are kept in a readily accessible supply closet, and a staffer will be spending the night at the building in order to be ready to immediately remove the cats if conditions worsen.
We are also alerting the media and sending out public service announcements to help get the message out about safeguarding animals to make sure that the public has the info that they need as the hurricane approaches, and we're even calling people whose animals are kept outside and whom we have helped in the past through our Community Animal Project. Even if you're not in the path of a hurricane—or an earthquake—now is still the time to make arrangements for safeguarding your animals in the event of an emergency:
-- Storm shelters for humans may refuse animals, so check with hotels, relatives, and friends to see if you and your animals can stay there until the emergency is over. Never leave animals unsupervised in a car where they can suffer heatstroke. To find out if there is an emergency shelter that accepts animals in your area, call your county emergency management office or local animal shelter.
-- Make sure that your animals are current on rabies vaccinations and are wearing collars with identification tags (microchips are even better). Pack leashes, bowls, towels, blankets, litter pans, litter, and at least a week's supply of food and medications. Be sure to have a carrier and/or leash and harness (frightened animals can slip out of collars) on hand for each animal.
-- Place signs in your windows and on your front door indicating how many and what kinds of animals are inside in case you are ever away from home when a disaster strikes—rescue teams may be able to save them.
-- Never leave animals behind in an evacuation. You may not be able to return home for weeks, leaving animals to die lingering, painful deaths by starvation, dehydration, or drowning. If conditions aren't safe for you, they aren't safe for your animals, either.
-- Keep an eye out for other animals in need, including strays and animals left behind by neighbors. If you see an animal in distress and are unable to help, note the animal's condition and location and call authorities for help as soon as possible.
TVs, couches, and even homes are replaceable, but best friends aren't. Visit PETA.org for more emergency-preparedness tips.