Traveling with ESAs & Pets During a Florida Hurricane Michael {Must Read}

Reading Time: 5 minutes

palm trees and stormy clouds during florida hurricane season 2018

Florida Hurricane Michael has hit! When a natural disaster strikes, it’s so important that you have your pets, assistance animals, service dogs or ESAs with you. Not only will leaving them behind be potentially fatal, but you’ll likely need their support too!

An ESA is an emotional support animal. They provide comfort and support, without training or the ability to perform specific tasks, from day to day. After an emergency declaration, you will likely need to have your ESA with you to help you keep calm and collected.

Whether you already have an ESA in Florida or are looking for some emotional support from an animal during/after the disaster, keep reading to find out what to do.

Hurricane Michael 2018 Update

Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10, 2018. It reached category 4 when it hit land and is the worst hurricane the panhandle has experienced. Michael brought down trees and power lines, tore off roofs and has caused significant structural damage!

The hurricane saw maximum sustained winds on land at an intense 120 mph, and as it made landfall between Panama City and Mexico beach, it had 155 mph winds.

The NOAA had warnings in place for:

  • Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River (Hurricane Warning)
  • Okaloosa/Walton County Line Florida to Anclote River Florida (Storm Surge Warning)
  • Anclote River Florida to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay (Storm Surge Warning)

Mandatory Evacuation Florida for Hurricane Michael: ESA Protocol for When You’re in an Evacuation Zone

The surge zone is a huge body of water that’s pushed in-land during a hurricane – this is the biggest killer during the storm! If your area has been told to evacuate, you must leave as soon as possible.

A mandatory evacuation is in effect in most areas of Florida. Check out the zones at Florida Disaster to find out where you should go in your area.

Don’t forget to take your pets with you! You should have an evacuation plan, including an emergency pet kit (keep reading to find out what to include!) and travel routes planned for how to get out in advance.

If this is your first hurricane or you’re caught unaware, make sure you take your pets with you when you leave in a rush.

It is highly unlikely that pets and ESAs left behind will survive on their own.

evacuation zone mandatory evacuation sign hurricane florida

How to Get an ESA Letter to Make Traveling with Your Furkid Easier!

Having an ESA letter with you can make traveling a lot easier! The letter is issued by a LMHP and simply states that you have a need for an emotional support animal.

Although they’re not covered under the same laws as service animals (e.g. guide dogs for the blind), organizations, hotels, and shelters may make an exception for you during a disaster if you can provide your ESA letter.

It’s all up to the owners of the establishment and/or local authority to decide whether they will or will not allows an ESA on the premises.

Know Your Rights! The 2 Vital Emotional Support Animal Laws

The Air Carrier Access Act gives you the right to take your ESA on an airplane! You cannot be refused passage with your ESA, but in most circumstances, you will need to provide the airport with notice at least 48 hours in advance with your ESA letter.

If you’re looking to escape a hurricane with your ESA, make sure you contact the airport to arrange flights beforehand!

The other law is the Fair Housing Act, which means that you cannot be evicted or charged extra for living with your ESA. By federal law, landlords and homeowner’s associations cannot refuse you reasonable accommodation because of your disability.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal Before the Hurricane Strikes: CertaPet’s Simple 5 Min Process

It only takes 5 minutes to start the ESA application with our simple process. You’ll know whether you’re eligible for an emotional support animal in just a matter of moments.

Our website and CertaPet services run even through hurricanes so don’t hesitate to take the free, 5-minute pre-screening.

The Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Animal with You During Scary Times

As ESAs are not trained service animals or therapy animals, you can’t ordinarily take them into public places. Hotels and shelters that don’t allow pets won’t usually be able to make an exception for you either.

But there are plenty of places that will welcome you and your ESA! Hurricanes, or any natural disaster, can be terrifying for anyone, not just for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many people open their doors to pets when disaster strikes and we need to band together!

Having your emotional support dog with you, whether you’re on the road, staying in a dog-friendly hotel or just spending the night at a relative’s house, can make all the difference.

The Calming Comfort of an ESA

Dogs, cats, birds, even snakes, and tarantulas. When you have a special bond with an ESA through the emotional support they provide for you, it doesn’t matter what species they are, your mental disability, or where you are headed. So long as you are together, they will continue to support you just by being your number 1 companion animal.

The world’s not so scary when you don’t have to face it alone!

pug in packed car ready for hurricane season florida

Hurricane Season Florida: Know Your Hurricane Categories!

For Florida hurricanes off the Atlantic, we use the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS). Category 1 is the mildest category while category 5 is the highest!

Hurricane Michael is currently categorized as 4, with catastrophic destruction experienced.

Storms 101: Tropical Storms, Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones!

Florida has been hit with storms more than any other state.

Did you know that hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones are the same storms? The name changes depending on where the storm hits!

For a storm to be labeled a hurricane and measured on the SSHWS scale, it must reach wind speeds of 74mph or more for at least a minute.

Tropical storms have between 39 and 73 mph wind speed for at least a minute. A tropical storm is generally described as having ‘hurricane-force high winds’ so it’s no joking matter!

Always follow the sheriff’s office advice on whether to evacuate or hunker down to wait it out. Keep your pets safe with you at all times!

Be Prepared! NHC and NOAA: Hurricane Tracking Made Easy!

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) department are sending updates hourly to give you an update on where the storm is and when it will hit. Make sure you’re safely evacuated before it hits!

When is Hurricane Season in Florida?

Most Florida hurricanes strike between August and September, but the hurricane season actually runs from the start of June to the end of November!

4 of the Worst Hurricanes that Hit the U.S. in Recent Years!

These major hurricanes certainly left a mark!

Hurricane Florence

Hitting North and South Carolina in the peak of hurricane season, Florence was a category 4 major hurricane that devastated coastal communities and led to 30 direct deaths.

Hurricane Irma

Irma is the strongest hurricane recorded over the Atlantic! Hitting the Caribbean and Florida Keys in September 2017, this was a category 5 hurricane that will be the last ever to be called Irma.

After the devastating impact and loss of life, the World Meteorological Organization retired the name in April 2018.

Hurricane Maria

Maria was the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, hitting Peurto Rico and traveling up America in 2017. Over 3000 people died and 91.6 billion dollars’ worth of damage was done.

Hurricane Harvey

Harvey is currently tied with Katrina as the costliest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record, primarily affecting Southern Texas. Among the money raised for relief efforts, Rachel Ray donated $1million to animal shelters across Houston for all the pets that were lost, forgotten or still trying to find their owners after the hurricane.

A real ESA hero!

emotional support dog sad for florida evacuation hurricane

Have Your Dog Emergency Kit Ready for When Those Gulf Winds Pick Up!

When the hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico, you know it is time to get a move on! That Florida hurricane is on its way! Having an emergency dog kit ready means you can get going in a moment’s notice.

Whether you’re in a hurricane zone or not, having an emergency kit is a great idea if you’ve got pets!

7 Things to Have in Your Pet’s Kit

  • Doggy meds, vaccination records, veterinarian contact details.
  • Food, water, bowls, blankets, and toys!
  • Photo of you and your furry friend – in case you’re separated.
  • Harnesses, leads, and collars if they’re not in a crate.
  • List of pet-friendly hotels, shelters, and friends you can stay with (power outages at home could last a while).
  • Litter box (more for cats and birds than dogs!)
  • Pet insurance details
  • Calming supplements to ease the stress and/or anxiety they might get – like CBD oil for dogs
Honest Paws CBD Oil For Dogs
Honest Paws CBD Oil for Dogs features 100% Full Spectrum CBD Oil, straight from the sun-grown Colorado hemp farms. Available in 125, 250 and 500 mg potency solutions.
Rated 5.00/5.00 by Certapet
Buy on

And don’t forget your emotional support animal!

Make Sure Your Pets Have Clear Identification!

You can create a quick dog tag to attach to your dog’s collar before you go. Include a mobile number (you won’t be near the home phone!) and details of where you’re heading.

The best way to give your emotional support animal ID is with a micro-chip. No matter what mess they get into, they’ll always have ID on them!

Stay Safe and Do NOT Leave Your Pet/ESA Behind!

If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets.

Even if you’re just planning to spend a few hours away from the house during a Florida hurricane, take your pet with you! You just don’t know how long you’ll be away from home.

It breaks our hearts to think about much-loved ESAs and pets being trapped in the path of a dangerous hurricane.

Take your pet with you and evacuate as early as possible. If the worst happens and you need rescuing from your home, there may not be space for your pets to come with you.

emotional support animal and pet left behind during florida hurricane season

Traveling with ESAs During a Florida Hurricane: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!

Get in touch with CertaPet. Simply take the 5 min prescreening, and if your answers indicate you may qualify for an ESA, we can connect you with a Licensed Mental Health Professional via video call if you’re away from home or on the road.

We know the best LMHPs who practice in your state and have extensive knowledge regarding ESAs. You’ll be in good hands and have your ESA letter with you in no time at all.

Common Questions about ESA Hurricane Safety

Should I leave my pets at home?

What should I take when evacuating with my ESA?

Can I get my ESA letter during a hurricane?

All product and Company names are Trademarks™ or Registered® trademarks of their respective holders.

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase may earn a commission. Keep in mind that we link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.