Since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, major changes have been made to federal and state emergency planning laws to mandate that pet friendly evacuation shelters be available in a disaster. In 2005 there were no laws that required that animals be evacuated, rescued or sheltered in an emergency. The lack of provisions for pets put human health and safety in jeopardy because some pet owners chose to weather the storm at home for fear of what would happen to their animals. As a result, federal and state laws have been passed to include provisions for evacuation of animals, rescue and recovery, shelters and tracking in disaster plans.
In 2006, the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) was passed. PETS directs the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop emergency preparedness plans and ensure that state and local emergency plans take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals during a major disaster or emergency. Since then, over 30 states have adopted either a law that deals with disaster planning and pets or have made known administrative plans on the subject. PETS Act FAQ
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, local Emergency Management teams are now required by Federal Law to have readiness plans and resources available to help citizens and their pets in the event of a disaster. AKC Pet Disaster Relief helps local Emergency Management provide animal care services immediately following a disaster. AKC Pet Disaster Relief trailers are stocked with essential, nonperishable necessities for sheltering pets. The supplies can be used to create a safe, temporary home-base for displaced animals and can be used to create one of two types of animal shelters. Co-location Shelters: A shelter that houses both humans and their animal companions. The people housed at the shelter are responsible for their animal’s general care. Lost and Found Pet Shelters: Displaced animals are housed in what often becomes a pop-up reunion center as people and animals are reunited. Approved volunteers and shelter staff provide animal care.
IF YOU EVACUATE YOUR HOME, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Pets most likely cannot survive on their own; and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return. Never leave a pet chained outdoors. If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider family or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.
The key to survival during a disaster, crisis or emergency is to be as prepared as possible before the storm hits. Take the time to make a plan and assemble an emergency kit for you and your pet and you will greatly increase your pet’s chances of survival.
Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in disaster shelters. (Service animals are allowed in Red Cross shelters.). It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL DISASTER STRIKES TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. If there are no pet-friendly shelters in your area, or if you think you will be unable to travel to the nearest one, you will need to identify shelter alternatives that suit your needs, as well as those of your pets.
Pet-friendly evacuation sheltering can be planned and executed in a multitude of ways. In some communities, the human evacuation shelter is within the same room, facility, or campus as accommodations for pets. This allows the animals’ owners to have a large role in caring for the pet. In other communities, the human shelter and pet shelter may be in separate locations. In this case, evacuees are told where to bring their pets, while they will be staying at a shelter for people.
If you will need to go to a pet friendly shelter during an evacuation, make sure you have the following items ready to go for your pet: a leash and collar, a crate, a two-week supply of food and water, your pets’ vaccination records and a current rabies vaccination tag, medications, and written instructions for feeding and administering medication. If your favorite four-legged friend is feline, be sure you bring kitty-litter and an appropriate container, too.
Please note: Not all communities offer pet friendly emergency/evacuation shelters. To find out if there is a pet friendly shelter in your area, contact your county emergency management office or local animal shelter.
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – Disasters FAQ
Learn more about HSUS animal rescue efforts that take place during hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters.
American Kennel Club (AKC) – Create an Emergency Evacuation Plan for You and Your Dog
Pet disaster preparedness means incorporating your dog and other pets into your evacuation plan so you’re prepared to meet their needs and keep them free from harm.
American Kennel Club (AKC) – Emergency Preparedness: The Essential Guide for Dog Owners
Just like you should have a plan in place for the humans in your family, you also need a disaster plan for your dog.
SPCA Monterey County – Disaster Preparedness Kit Checklist
Find recommended items for a pet first aid kit and other items you should have in case of a disaster. Includes specific pet-based kits for dogs and puppies; cats or kittens; birds; reptiles; small pets; horse or livestock; and fish.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) – Pets and Disasters
AVMA has developed a Pet Evacuation Kit to help those in a storm’s path safely account for their pets as they prepare to leave the area.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – Pets in Evacuation Centers
Know the risks of housing animals and people in one location; and how to minimize the health risks of pets in human evacuation centers.
ASPCA Disaster Preparedness
Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe, so the best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared.
American Red Cross – Pet Disaster Preparedness
Learn how to prepare your pets for an emergency evacuation and help them recover afterward.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Pets and Animals
Know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation and when to shelter in place. Includes tips for large animals.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Pet-Friendly Shelters
Outlines the essential issues that jurisdictions should consider when developing plans to provide pet-friendly sheltering for people before, during, or after an emergency that requires a large-scale evacuation.
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