Dog after Hurricane Irene

Dog after Hurricane Irene (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

When Hurricane Irene gave the East Coast a good scare last weekend, many of us realized something a bit late: We had no disaster plan.

And a new survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals proves it: More than a third of pet owners have no strategy for how to handle an emergency, the organization found.

The poll found that in the Northeast, where recent experience has shown we're not immune to hurricanes and even earthquakes, 45 percent of dog owners and about the same percentage of cat people don’t know what they would do with their pets in an evacuation. In the South numbers are a bit better, but not much.

September is National Preparedness Month. So perhaps it's a good time to draft a plan.

“It doesn’t matter where you live, anyone can be hit with a natural or man-made disaster,” Tim Rickey, senior director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response said in a statement. “When you’re in the moment, it can be very stressful for you and your pets.”

Rickey recommends pet owners plan to take their animals with them if a natural disaster threatens. "If it’s not safe for you," he says, "then it’s not safe for your pets.”

The poll also found that only a quarter of dogs and cats are micro-chipped, which can be very helpful if owners and animals become separated.

Here are so other tips from the ASPCA:

Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster.

Make sure all pets wear collars and ID tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA also recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of ID.

Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home.

Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet first aid supplies.

Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind!

Choose a designated caregiver who can take care of your pet in the event you are unable.