Keeping pets safe in Sandy's aftermath

Heather Moline, of Oakdale, wraps her dog Tokio Heather Moline, of Oakdale, wraps her dog Tokio in a towel as she surveys the flooding on Browns River Road in Sayville, on Long Island's South Shore. (Oct. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: MCT

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Newsday's pet columnist, Marc Morrone, has been caring for hundreds of animals people have entrusted to him since superstorm Sandy hit. At his shop, Parrots of the World, in Rockville Centre, Morrone has offered a safe port for all sorts of pets whose owners were left powerless or homeless.

Here's what he's doing, and here's some advice for those of you with pets still in your dark and cold houses.

How many animals have you been caring for?

Lots and lots and lots. I don't even know how many. The most horrific story was of a customer from Breezy Point who had to put her children and birds in a kayak, then tied some surfboards to the kayaks to keep everyone safe, and then had to get into the deep murky water to pull the whole rig she had made, illuminated only by fire from the burning of her house.

How do you best comfort an animal in the aftermath of a situation like Sandy?

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The best way to comfort an animal is to make believe there's nothing wrong. If you're doing everything as usual, the animal won't think there's anything wrong. The animals take their cue from us. If an animal is afraid of a situation, and you go over to comfort the animal, they're going to think you're afraid, too.

Pets are more resilient than people realize. There were animals on Noah's Ark, on Christopher Columbus' ship, on the Mayflower and on covered wagons coming across the United States. Every animal started off someplace. They can deal with situations a lot better than people think they can.

Many people are going to be without power for a while. What can you do to keep your pets warm and comfortable?

You have to think outside the box. People have certain reptiles and lizards that they think would die in the cold but actually won't. We have helped some customers by inducing hibernation. For certain fish, if you cover their tanks with a blanket, they become dormant. You can take self-heating pads and shake them up and place them on the outside of the tank and that will keep them warm enough.

I don't have any heat here and it's been 45 degrees at night. I've told anyone who wanted to bring birds here that we have no heat, but birds deal better with cold temperatures than people realize. And dogs and cats can deal with the colder temperatures pretty well.

If there's one good thing in this bit of bad luck, it's that God picked the right time of the year for it to happen. If it had been in July, it would have been really hot and there would have been skank and flies around. If it had happened in January, it would have been too cold. A lot of animals are perfectly fine in this temperature. People can bring animals in bed with them. And you can also put self-heating pads against an animal's cage where they can't get at them.

Let's say your dog has been sleeping in bed with you. How do you break them of the habit?

Who says you have to? Didn't you ever hear the expression "three-dog night?''

What can you do if your pet refuses to eat because it's still frightened?

There's not a creature on the planet that voluntarily starves itself. If a dog or cat won't eat today, they'll eat tomorrow. As far as water, if you're drinking water from a water bottle, give it to them, too. Each situation had to be tailored to the person in that situation.

Is it OK to leave a pet alone in a cold, dark house?

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It all depends on the situation. To a dog, 40 degrees is not cold. To a panther chameleon, 40 degrees will kill it. It's up to you be a responsible pet keeper and to know the variety of environmental factors pets will handle. And you also need to know how long you're going to be away for. If it's an emergency situation and you know you'll be gone a long time, you have to think responsibly.

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