No one should have to brave a hurricane alone. Luckily for the animal residents of the Jacksonville Humane Society, they’ll spend Hurricane Dorian in their new foster homes.
In less than a week, about 250 dogs and cats moved out of the shelter and in with temporary foster families called Storm Troopers. They’ll take care of the pets until at least Friday once Dorian has dissipated, the shelter said.
“It just blows us away,” CEO Denise Deisler told CNN. “These are people who may have to evacuate themselves, and they’re taking a pet with them.”
By Monday, they’d gotten all of their animals out except for two dogs quarantined for biting, some nursing cats and their kittens and a few medical patients. They’ll all ride out the storm with the shelter’s skeleton crew, she said.
These urgent housing pushes are nothing new for the Jacksonville shelter, she said.
“There have been so many hurricanes,” she said. “We’ve gotten an awful lot of practice.”
While the shelter’s solid and safe, the howling wind and slapping rain that will likely accompany Dorian could frighten and rile up the animals. When they’re in a home with dedicated foster parents and don’t have to compete with hundreds of other pets for attention, they’ll feel safer and calmer, she said.
And even if Jacksonville dodges the brunt of the storm, neighboring shelters might be less lucky. If the shelter is mostly empty, staff can rescue animals from other shelters at capacity.
While Storm Trooper-ing is temporary, Deisler said she’s hopeful fostering will turn into a permanent gig for many parents.
“Really, we hope that they’ll fall in love while they’re out in homes and they never come back,” she said. “All they need to do is give us a call.”
How to keep pets safe in a hurricane
If you’re in a hurricane’s path, consider the safety of your fluffier family members, too.
If you must evacuate, never, ever leave your pet behind, Deisler said. Abandoning them during a storm leaves their fate up to chance, and you don’t know how long it’ll be until you can return. If you and your pet are both sticking it out, make sure they’re not confined or tied down so they can easily move.
Some, but not all, shelters are pet-friendly. BringFido compiled a list of shelters in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas that accept pets ahead of Hurricane Dorian. If you bring their proof of vaccines with you when you evacuate, many of them should let you and your pet stay.
Fill up their medicines ahead of time so they won’t run out. Stock up on food and water, enough to last your pet one week, as well as a leash and a collar with ID. FEMA recommends keeping a photo of you and your pet together so you can prove you own it in case you’re separated.
Bring toys they like or bedding that smells like home, Deisler said–familiar smells can reduces their stress.
CNN’s Amanda Jackson contributed to this report