The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act
The images are all too familiar: A child is forced to give up his cat to board an evacuation bus. A woman refuses to leave her flooding home without her dog. A man floats on a makeshift raft for days with his pets because he refuses to be rescued without them.
These images are permanently fused into our minds after Hurricane Katrina. Animal welfare professionals and volunteers didn’t just watch these events unfold on television and in the newspapers; they experienced them firsthand as so many went to the Gulf region to help with animal rescues and sheltering. Many ultimately transported animals from the temporary shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi back to their own communities to make room for more animals to be rescued, and many then worked diligently to reunite the animals with their people.
As this year’s hurricane season approaches, Congress is considering legislation designed to help keep pets and people together in future emergency situations. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act, H.R. 3858 and S. 2548), introduced by Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Chris Shays (R-CT) in the House of Representatives and by Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in the Senate, calls for pets and service animals to be included in local and state disaster plans. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3858 on May 22 with a vote of 349 to 24. Read the full text of H.R. 3858 and S. 2548.
Just as the animal welfare community came together to help animals during the disaster, we can come together now to ensure that animals in the next disaster can stay with their families. Passage of the PETS Act is critical to ensuring that state and local emergency and preparedness authorities get the funding and support required to accommodate the needs of pets, service animals, and people. You can contact your Senators and Representatives and encourage your community members to do the same.