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N.C. county setting up hurricane shelter for pets

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — When the next hurricane strikes the North Carolina coast, a shelter in Wilmington will welcome pet owners and their dogs and cats, which will pose for mug shots before settling into their kennels to ride out a storm.

New Hanover County authorities held a drill this week to set up the pet-friendly shelter at Noble Middle School, The Wilmington Star-News reported Friday.

The shelter could hold 36 cats and 80 dogs. The animals would live in pet kennels lining hallways of the school and owners would stay in separate areas of the school.

In the past, some people have refused to evacuate because many hurricane shelters wouldn't accept their pets.

Pets would be identified and photographed and animal officials would care for them during the storm, said county animal control supervisor Jean McNeil.

Pet owners have left their animals at the county animal shelter during previous evacuations. That shelter still will be available and can handle as many as 280 animals.

The pet-friendly shelter was set up as part of a federal requirement created after Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf coast. Some pets were abandoned and other owners refused to leave without their pets.

The year after Katrina, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, or PETS, that requires governments to include certain animals in evacuation plans. Federal funding hinges on the requirement.

A county far from the coast also is making plans for pets during hurricanes.

A state plan designates Johnston County as the stopping point for people and pets fleeing New Hanover coast. West Johnston High School is an official shelter for people from New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Onslow counties.

Johnston County animal services director Ernie Wilkinson said the school can hold 3,000 people and 500 animals.

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