Update: The Humane Society of the United States is coordinating an evacuation of approximately 80 animals out of three Florida shelters. A rescue flight funded by the HSUS has departed from Jacksonville this morning with cats and mostly large-breed dogs who were up for adoption at Nassau Humane Society, Jacksonville Animal Protective Services and St. Johns County Pet Center. Shelters typically see an influx of animals after a storm, and moving these animals out will help make room for any new arrivals. The animals will go to Michigan Humane Society and will be distributed among their partners in the state ​so these animals can be adopted into forever homes.

Hurricane Dorian is bearing down upon Florida, threatening to turn into a monster Category 4 storm. An event this size, with heavy winds and rains, has the potential to wreak tremendous destruction, for the thousands of people in its path and for animals too. If you live in an area that’s likely to be impacted and are making plans for your safety, please include your pets in those plans.

To start with, make sure your pets are wearing collars with identification tags, and that if they’re microchipped, the chip is registered with the most up-to-date information. If you plan to evacuate, make sure your pet evacuates with you, because if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pet. Animals left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. You can also make arrangements with a friend or family member to keep your pet safe until the storm passes.

If you're responsible for other kinds of animals, including feral or outdoor cats, horses and animals on farms, be sure to include them in your disaster plans.

Shelters in the storm’s path are already moving animals to safety, and we are standing by to assist them when needed, and also to help with any rescue needs that come up after the storm has passed. The HSUS has a large network of shelter and rescue partners around the country, and just this year we have transported more than 600 animals to safety over three natural disasters. You can also help by reaching out to your local shelter to see if they could use short-term fosters to help increase available space for the anticipated influx of animals after a storm, as well as crates, food and other storm-related assistance.

At our South Florida Wildlife Center, more than 60 staff and volunteers are now working around the clock to evacuate over 400 injured and orphaned animals who are now in the center’s care. The center’s executive director, Debra Parsons Drake, told me that they expect to evacuate the animals by end of day Sunday. The animals, including litters of opossums, squirrels and birds, as well as larger birds like pelicans, osprey, owls and egrets, will be matched with staff or trained volunteers who have the expertise to take care of their needs. The animals will be cared for in these foster homes until it’s safe for them to return to the center.

The center is also expecting an influx of animals, as usually happens after storms like these, where heavy winds have the effect of blowing birds ashore, leaving them stunned or disoriented, or trees are felled by lightning, toppling over nests with baby birds in them. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017, more than 100 injured and orphaned animals arrived at the center.

Dorian could likely be a life-threatening event, and our thoughts are with all the residents in its path. The storm is expected to make landfall early next week and we will continue to bring you updates of our work there. Meanwhile, there is still time to ensure the safety of your loved ones, including your companion animals. If you don’t already have a disaster plan for your companion animal, large or small, make one now. We have tips on preparing a disaster kit, finding a safe place to evacuate with your pets, and sheltering in place.

You can also make sure you are prepared for this or any other disaster by learning how to make a pet disaster preparedness kit to keep your family and your pets safe.