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How To Prepare For Shelter Evacuation

June 25, 2020

Evacuating during a hurricane can be a scary and confusing process, and for those who need to head to an emergency shelter, finding a place to stay that accommodates pets can be difficult.

Experts say it’s essential for pet owners to plan in advance where they’ll house furry members of the family since many hotels and shelters don’t allow pets.

Emergency shelters across the Palmetto State are managed and overseen by the American Red Cross. These shelters generally do not allow dogs, cats, birds or other household pets unless they’re service animals, said S.C. Red Cross spokesman Ben Williamson.

In order to maintain recommended social distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, shelter occupancy will be significantly limited this year, leaving little room to accommodate pets.

“Because of COVID-19, the Red Cross is unable to welcome any pets into our shelters for hurricane season,” Williamson said.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country, the Red Cross already limited household pets at its emergency shelters. That’s because some evacuees may be allergic to pets, Williamson said. Others might be nervous or uncomfortable around them.

“We welcome anyone into our shelters. We don’t turn anyone away,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone can come to our shelters and not have issues.”

Charleston County does have a facility pre-identified to house domesticated household pets and their owners seeking shelter from category 1, 2 and 3 hurricanes, said Charleston County Emergency Management Director Jason Patno.

The shelter is “co-located,” meaning that owners and their pets will be in the same facility. But all pets will be housed in cages or containers in an area separate from where their owners stay.

The facility is located at 3765 Leeds Ave. in North Charleston.

Owners should bring food, medications and a crate for their pet. The shelter does not accept exotic animals, and animals demonstrating aggressive behavior might be turned away, Panto said.

Much like emergency hurricane shelters, pet-friendly shelters are “shelters of last resort,” Panto said, and residents are highly encouraged to relocate on their own away with a family member or friend away if possible.

Kay Hyman, spokeswoman for the Charleston Animal Society, agreed.

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