Hurricane preparedness--Don't forget pets

  • Published
  • By Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
For many people, their pet is an integral part of their family.

This is the case for Capt. Lisa L. Kostellic, 403d Mission Support Group executive officer, who owns a cat and two dogs. Her 10-year-old cat is from a shelter and her dogs, a German shepherd and Belgian Malinois, are three years old.

"I love my pets," said Kostellic, who served three years on active duty as a public affairs officer at Keesler during Hurricane Katrina before joining the Air Force Reserve in 2007.
As a Biloxi native and having spent a year at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, Kostellic is familiar with what it takes to prepare for a hurricane or typhoon. This means including her furry friends into her hurricane preparation plans and assembling a pet emergency kit.

"You have to be willing to take on the responsibility that goes with owning a pet," she said. "This is the time of year I go storm shopping to ensure I have everything we need to include nonperishable items, food and water."

Kostellic has these items on hand as part of her Pet Emergency Supply Kit. The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following items:
- Food and water for five days for each pet.
- Medications and medical records.
- Cat litter box, litter and associated items as well as garbage bags to collect pet waste.
- Leashes, harness and carriers to transport pets safely.
- Pet beds and toys.
- Written instructions concerning pet feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavioral issues as well as veterinarian information in the event the pet needs to be boarded.
- Current photos and descriptions of pets in the event pets become separated from their owners during the storm.

Also, include pets into the family evacuation plan, said Daniel L. Ward, CSC employee and an emergency management program analyst for the base.

"Take your pets with you," he said. "Don't leave them behind or let them loose. If it's not safe for you, it won't be safe for your pet. Communities have had problems with people letting their pets loose before a storm. People will let their pets loose, and after a storm there are issues with animal bites and lost pets. It's much safer, for everyone, to pre-identify pet shelters or pet friendly hotels in your family plan."

This is why the Humane Society of the United States recommends owners ensure their pets have proper identification. Pets should have a collar with the owner's phone number, and it's even better if they are microchipped and enrolled in a recovery database.

If not staying with family or friends, there are several pet friendly hotels. The following websites can assist pet owners with finding lodging for their family and pets:

Other options include boarding animals with a kennel or veterinarian, according to Humane Society of the United States.

If evacuating to a public shelter, individuals should be aware not all shelters allow pets. During a hurricane, Harrison County Emergency Management announces shelter locations. This agency works closely with the base to inform personnel what shelter locations are available to people and pets, said David K. Townsend Jr., CSC employee who is the installation emergency manager.

"At this time, there is one pet-friendly shelter in Harrison County," said Rupert H. Lacy, director of Harrison County Emergency Management, Homeland Security Agency and Emergency 911. "The Humane Society of South Mississippi runs the shelter, which if opened is located at the Harrison Central High School Career and Technical Center, 15600 School Road, Gulfport."

Kostellic said she is fortunate to have family and friends throughout the area, should she need to evacuate with her pets.

"Pets are a big responsibility, but they are worth it," she said. "For non-pet people it may be hard to understand if you have never had an animal greet you at the door after a long day. Animals have 100 percent unconditional love for you."

For more information, visit the Keeler Hurricane information webpage at
The following websites also offer pet preparedness information.
The Humane Society of the United States:
The Humane Society of South Mississippi:

(This is part two of a four-part series about hurricane preparedness. Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo is a reservist with the 512th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Del., performing her annual tour with the 81st Training Wing Public Affairs Office.)