Prepare Your Pets for Hurricane Season. Microchips Are Key.

September is National Preparedness Month

As we’ve already seen as Hurricane Laura has battered the Gulf Coast region and torn through inland communities, the threat is real. This year, as we anticipate unusual challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important that people with pets be informed and prepared to respond to weather-related emergencies that threaten our area with little warning.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. is facing “one of the most active hurricane seasons on record,” warning that there may be as many as 25 named storms and 11 hurricanes, including six that may be “major.”

Memories of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated many New York City and surrounding area neighborhoods in 2012, remind us that preparing ahead of the storm can help mitigate the dangers to people and their pets.

As a member of the Animal Planning Task Force of NYC Emergency Management since 2006, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals has worked with the City of New York and numerous task force partners over the years to create and implement a comprehensive plan to keep New Yorkers and their pets safe when disaster strikes. We encourage you to read the informative Ready New York: My Pet’s Emergency Plan, (also available in other languages and audio format) on the NYC.gov website. You’ll find a great deal of useful information to help you:

• Make an emergency plan that includes all members of your family, including your pets.
• Provide your pets with adequate identification (including microchips for dogs and cats and licenses for dogs) to help reunite them with you should you become separated;
• Prepare a “go bag” that contains the supplies and information you’ll need to have close at hand should you and your pets need to evacuate your home;
• Discover other helpful tips, which you might not have considered.

In the event that the City’s emergency shelter system is opened, and you cannot shelter your pets at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area, pets are allowed at all City evacuation centers.

We encourage you to check out the Alliance’s Prepare Your Pets for Emergencies page for additional links to a wealth of information from a range of emergency preparedness expert sources, including American Red Cross, American Veterinary Medical Association, ASPCA, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), RedRover, and others.

The HSUS video, Evacuate your pets safely during COVID-19, provides some useful preparedness tips:

Are Your Pets Microchipped?

The Alliance has always been an ardent advocate for having pets microchipped, as it is one of the best ways to increase a pet’s chances of being reunited with his or her owner if they become separated — which is a real possibility during a disaster. That’s why we featured free microchipping clinics at most Alliance adoption events over the years.

In addition to the Alliance website, Michelson Found Animals provides excellent information about microchipping. We encourage you to check out both resources to discover important facts that you might not know. For example, did you know that the most important step in microchipping your pet is to register your pet’s microchip with a microchip registry, and to update the information whenever you change your address or phone number?

Caroline Laxton, Eastern U.S. Regional Manager for Michelson Found Animals, explains: “A microchip is the only form of permanent ID for your pet and is imperative for your pet’s safety. Although collars and tags are just as important, they can fall off, or get taken off when a pet is lost. A microchip allows your pet to be reunited with you with or without a tag. However, contrary to popular belief, a microchip is not a GPS device — it won’t tell you the location of your pet should he or she get lost.”

Caroline explained that when a pet is found and their microchip is scanned, a 9-digit numeric number, 10-digit alphanumeric number, or a 15-digit numeric number shows up on the microchip scanner. In order for whomever found your pet to be able to connect that 9-, 10-, or 15-digit number back to you, your pet’s microchip must be registered with your current contact information in a National Microchip Registry. If you can’t find your pet’s microchip number, your local vet clinic or animal shelter will be able to scan them and provide you with their chip number so you may then register their chip or ensure their chip registration is up-to-date. Think of your pet’s microchip number as their social security number; always keep it in a safe place.

Some microchip registries charge a fee for registering a microchip and updating your contact information, or provide limited reunification communications if a pet owner doesn’t participate in one of their paid memberships; but other registries, such as Michelson Found Animals, offer free microchip registrations and updates for the life of your pet. No matter what brand of microchip your pet has, you may freely register them at Found.org and include not just your contact information, but also two emergency contacts and your pet’s veterinary clinic info. Being able to add these extra contacts gives your pet every opportunity to make it safely back to you if they are lost, especially if you can’t be reached in a natural disaster / emergency situation.

While having your pet protected with a registered microchip is extremely important as a permanent means of identifying your pet, we also recommend having an external ID, such as a dog tag displaying your phone number, affixed to his or her collar. If your dog is found running loose, this can save a Good Samaritan a trip to the vet clinic or local animal shelter to get them scanned for a microchip, so it’s critical that your current phone number is on the tag, and better yet, your current phone number and address.

Stay safe, New Yorkers, and be prepared. And let’s hope we’ve already seen the worst 2020 can bring our way!

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