Hurricane Irma: Safety tips for pets

Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning.

The storm first made landfall in Florida Sunday morning as it crashed into the Keys as a Category 4 storm, but it was downgraded as it reached Naples on the state’s west coast.

By Monday evening, the storm still maintained maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

As Irma pushes inland, below are some safety precautions pet owners can follow. 

Advance planning

“The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets,” the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) says online, strongly cautioning against people evacuating without pets.

Safety measures 

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act in 2006, legislation that requires plans for the evacuation of pets, in addition to people.

Under the act, FEMA's director is required "to ensure that state and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency."

To get ready for a disaster, people should determine secure locations for their pets, something that can be done by contacting hotels or shelters, FDEM explained.

The American Kennel Club has posted a list online of Hurricane Irma-friendly shelters in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina that people may refer to. 

HURRICANE IRMA'S STORM PATH: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

FDEM also suggests that pet owners gather pet supplies, such as food, water, bowls, leashes, carriers, cat litter, photos of your pets for ID purposes, and medicine.

“Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily,” it advises.

When evacuating

Dogs should be leashed and carriers should be used for cats, FDEM advised.

“Don't leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off,” it says. “The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch.”

The agency suggests that upon coming back, pet owners allow their companions “time to settle back into their routines.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.