spca-pinellasBy Dr. Rizal Lopez, SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center

The Tampa Bay area loves baseball, football, hockey and soccer season- hurricane season not so much. Expert indicators predict the 2022 hurricane season to have “above average” activity — including nine hurricane-force storms and four major hurricanes. The season starts June 1- November 30. The time for you, your family and pets to be prepared is now.

At SPCA Tampa Bay we’ve had recent experience at our For-All shelter keeping our animals safe from Hurricane Irma and helping our partners in the panhandle when they were impacted by storms. What helped us was a plan to keep our animals and our team safe and healthy.

Keep your family and pets safe by knowing what to do in the event of an emergency and make a plan now. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a potential storm:

Know your flood and evacuation zones. First, visit your county’s website. In Pinellas County, go to PinellasCounty.org to check the flood and evacuation zones near you.

Plan where you’d go if an evacuation is necessary or ordered. Pre-registration is required to stay in a pet-friendly emergency shelter – call Pinellas County at (727) 582-2150 or download the registration form on the Pinellas County website and return it to Pinellas County Animal Services. The Pinellas County School Board and Pinellas County government provide the pet-friendly shelter locations at Largo and Gibbs High Schools.

There are very few emergency shelters that accept pets and their owners, and they are never large or comfortable. You and your pets will handle the stress of an evacuation far better if you find pet-friendly hotels and motels, or can stay with friends or family.

Never leave your pets alone if you have to evacuate. You won’t be able to get back to them due to storm surge or flood damage. Your pets may end up being left alone for hours or days depending on severe weather, storm damage, downed power lines, road closures or other poor conditions. Wind or rain damage to your home and yard could also put your pets at risk for injury or escape in your absence.

Pack at least 3-5 days worth of supplies. Remember to bring essential items with you like your pet’s food and medications, bottled water, and their medical and shot records, as well as familiar items like a favorite toy or blanket. Make sure your pet’s collar has the identification tag on it and that your contact information on your pet’s microchip and tag are up-to-date. If you don’t know how to update your pet’s microchip, ask your veterinarian or the shelter where you adopted your pet to help you.

Start planning now. Don’t wait for another storm to figure out your plan for hurricane season. The hurricane season lasts through Thanksgiving and the Tampa Bay area will likely feel the effect of a hurricane or tropical storm this season. Contact SPCA Tampa Bay at 727-586-3591 or spcatampabay.org for help and links to organizations to assist you in figuring out the best plan for your family.


Dr. Rizal Lopez, DVM (General Practice)

After more than a decade in private practice, Dr. Rizal Lopez has been with SPCA Tampa Bay since 2011.  He remains active in the veterinary industry as a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Pinellas County Veterinary Medical Association, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. In 2014, Dr. Lopez won the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Health Care Hero Award in the veterinary category.