President Bush said if he was ever forced to evacuate, the one thing he'd take would be his Scottish Terrier, Barney. In 2006 he signed a bill that requires officials to include pets in their disaster plans. The law - no animal left behind - is appropriately called: “PETS”: The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act.
With tremendous bipartisan support in both houses, the legislation passed quickly through Congress in 2006 and was signed into law in October 2006.
What is the PETS Act?
The official name of the PETS Act is Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006. This legislation amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
The amendments specified in the PETS Act are intended to ensure that state and local emergency preparedness operational planning addresses the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.
The PETS Act:
Requires state and local emergency preparedness operational plans take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals before, during and after a disaster
Grants the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the authority to approve the standards of these plans and assist state and local communities in developing plans
Indicates that the FEMA Director may make financial contributions on the basis of programs and projects approved by the Director, to the state and local authorities for animal emergency preparedness purposes. This includes the procurement, leasing, construction or renovation of emergency shelter facilities and materials that will accommodate people with pets and service animals.
Allows FEMA the authority to provide essential assistance to individuals with pets and service animals — for the provision of care, rescue, sheltering and essential needs to such pets and animals
The PETS Act was signed into law late in 2006, so there will be some lag time in developing and implementing those plans. Many states are already actively seeking assistance from experts in the field in order to make sure that the plans they are developing are not only practical and realistic but also that they genuinely protect the companion animals within their jurisdictions.
History of the PETS Act
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it was overwhelmingly apparent that provisions need to be made for companion animals in major disaster and emergency situations:
Many Katrina evacuees and disaster victims were forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuated their homes, because no provisions had been made to evacuate pets along with their families.
The emotional trauma of those forced to leave their pets behind and the suffering of tens of thousands of animals was compounded by the health and safety risks that resulted from so many abandoned animals in one area.
Conversely, many pet owners, knowing their animals could not accompany them, chose to stay in their homes with their pets, further complicating human rescue efforts.
The PETS Act helps ensure that this situation does not repeat itself if another major disaster strikes.
If I were forced to make the choice of leaving Kirby behind to fend for himself, my choice would be staying behind with him! It's incredibly comforting to know I'll never have to make that choice.