By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - Don't wait until disaster strikes to decide how to handle pet care, local Humane Society representatives said.
Animal advocates stand firmly behind the slogan, "If you go, they go," but if leaving the county in the event of a disaster such as a storm isn't an option, a special pet-friendly shelter is the next best thing.
Last year was the first year the county prepared a disaster shelter for both people and their pets. The shelter is an option again this year should people need it, but pre-registration numbers are down.
"It's been a number of years since we've had a disaster and sometimes people get a little lackadaisical," said Ilka Daniel, director of animal services at the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.
There are about 70,000 animals in the county and only enough shelter space for about 2,000, Ms. Daniel said.
"If you do need to use a pet-friendly shelter, early registration is imperative," she said.
Last year, there were about 60 pets pre-registered, but there are less than 40 so far this year.
Residents with pets in designated evacuation areas, such as the barrier island, manufactured homes, homes east of U.S. 1 and flood-prone areas are strongly encouraged to pre-register for disaster shelter at Liberty Magnet School if they have no other place of refuge.
Pre-registering the animals will help the evacuation shelter better prepare, Ms. Daniel said.
Pets accepted at the shelter include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and small animals such as gerbils and hamsters. Each pet must be brought in its own carrier and must be up to date on vaccinations and rabies shots.
Pet owners are also expected to bring at least three days worth of food, water, medications and other supplies for their pets and themselves.
For registration or more information, call (772) 388-3331, Ext. 28 or visit www.hsvb.org. Registration applications can also be found at www.irces.com.