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Have Pets? Here's What You Need To Know About Emergency Shelters

Photo via Flickr//Tracy Ducasse

No one wants to get stuck in a hurricane shelter. They are, and should be, a last resort for keeping you and your family safe. But what if your family includes pets? There are options. Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties all have an emergency shelter that will take pets. John Dosh, Emergency Manager for Escambia County says the idea for the shelters came after seeing the chaos in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina where so many pets were left behind and abandoned. Now, the Molino Park Eelmentary Scholl can hold up to 350 pets, and their owners, during an emergency such as a hurricane. Remember we are talking about pets, not working animals, so guide dogs for the blind are accepted in any shelter.

The shelter takes only dogs and cats. Reptiles, birds and other exotic pets are not accepted and all animals must be kept in a crate or cage. All animals must be licensed and have records of up to date vaccinations. Pet owners have to provide food, water and clean up.

The situation is pretty much the same in Santa Rosa County. Their pet friendly emergency shelter is at the Avalon Middle School on King Arthur's Way in Milton. Dale Hamilton, the director of Santa Rosa County Animal Services says people should, again, prepare to bring the basics like food and water and any medications the animals may need for a few days. The shelter is Santa Rosa County was established after Hurricane Dennis and has never been used.

In Okaloosa County, the emergency shelter at the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College will accept dogs and cats as well as caged birds. Officials in all three counties would like people to call and preregister if they think they may need to use the shelter so the counties can get an idea of how many pets many be brought in...although no one will be turned away in an emergency if they haven't called in advance.