A recent poll found that 61 percent of pet owners say that in an emergency they would refuse to evacuate their home if they could not take their pets with them.
On Friday President Bush signed the PETS Act (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) to help ensure that Americans will never have to confront the choice between personal safety and that of their animal companions…
The legislation requires the inclusion of companion animals in disaster planning by both state and local authorities. It was approved by unanimous voice vote in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives earlier this year.
The Humane Society of the United States praised the congress and president for taking action. “While Katrina wreaked so much devastation and disruption, it also highlighted the remarkable bond between this nation and our pets and service animals, and the need for public policy to echo that appreciation of animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO.
The bill contains provisions to help with disaster planning, including:
- requiring that local and state emergency preparedness authorities include plans for pets and service animals in their disaster plans to qualify for grants from FEMA
- granting FEMA the authority to assist states and local communities in developing disaster plans to accommodate people with pets and service animals
- authorizing federal funds to help create pet-friendly emergency shelter facilities; and
- allowing FEMA to provide assistance for individuals with pets and service animals, and the animals themselves, following a major disaster.
“People victimized by disasters should not suffer needless additional injury by having to abandon their household pets or service animals to their fate,” said Rep. Tom Lantos.
Disaster experts note that evacuations will run more smoothly if pets are included in pre-disaster planning. “People lost their lives in the wake of Katrina because government responders told them their animals had to be left behind and they couldn’t bear to abandon their pets,” said Pacelle. “For many people who face losing everything, their pet is the only comfort they have left.”
“People see pets as part of their family and they do not want to leave any family members behind,” added Sen. Frank Lautenberg. “As we learned during Hurricane Katrina, when people need to choose between safety and their pets, some of them will choose their pets. Now, they don’t need to make that choice.”
There are over 358 million pets in the United States residing in 63 percent of American households.