As the East Coast braces for potential high surf, rains and winds from Hurricane Irene, the Humane Society of the United States recommends that people build their pets into their evacuation plans.

"It is crucial that residents are prepared to take pets with them if asked to evacuate in the face of this potentially destructive storm," Laura Bevan, the Humane Society's Eastern regional director, said in a statement. "If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pets."

Irene, now a Category 3 storm with winds of up to 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour), is forecasted to travel up the East Coast of the U.S. through the weekend, potentially threatening coastal areas from the Carolinas to New England.

Even if there is no immediate evacuation order in your area, residents in potential hurricane impact zones are advised to take a few basic preparedness steps, including knowing where to go in the event of an evacuation, stocking up on food and water, and making sure important documents and medications are easy to access.

For people with pets, evacuation can be slightly more complicated. Many evacuation shelters don't accept pets, the Humane Society reported, so pet owners should check with their local animal shelter or emergency management service to find out if there will be pet-friendly shelters in the area. Hotels and motels sometimes lift "no pet" restrictions in emergencies, but residents should ask ahead.

In addition to an emergency plan, pet owners should have an emergency supply kit for their pets. According to the Humane Society, this kit should include:

  • At least three days of pet food and water in airtight, waterproof containers
  • Bowls for food and water
  • Current photos and physical descriptions of pets, in case they should become lost
  • Medications, vaccination records and any pet first-aid supplies
  • Comfort items such as a toy or blanket
  • Small garbage bags for waste
  • ┬áleash, harness and sturdy carrier large enough to be used as a sleeping area for dogs
  • For cats, a litter box, litter and a sturdy carrier.
For more tips and advice on other pets, visit humanesociety.org/prepare.

This article was reprinted with permission from LiveScience.

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