House Passes "PETS" Act for Disasters

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act which requires state and local emergency management agencies to make plans that take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster or emergency.

"The House of Representatives has taken an important step in ensuring that Americans will never again be forced to make an impossibly difficult choice: leave their animal behind while they flee a disaster or take their chances by staying in a disaster-stricken area with their pet," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS (the Humane Society of the United States).

Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) introduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, stranding thousands of animals who were abandoned during the storm and endangering people who would not leave their beloved companions. The PETS Act requires that local and state emergency preparedness authorities include plans for pets and service animals in disaster plans. Those agencies must submit these plans to qualify for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

A version of the legislation introduced in the Senate (S. 2548) by Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) includes several additional provisions, such as granting FEMA the authority to assist in developing the household pet and service animal disaster plans, and authorizing federal funds to help create pet-friendly evacuation shelters and to provide assistance for household pets and service animals following a major disaster.

Passage of the PETS Act coincided with the release of the forecast for the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a very active hurricane season, with 13 to 16 named storms, including eight to 10 hurricanes and four to six major hurricanes. Non-profit organizations such as The HSUS, ASPCA, Louisiana SPCA and countless local animal control agencies and individuals from across the country rescued 10,000 animals in Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

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