Thanks to all of you who helped with our Party Animal event (remember the drumming on the beach and the fire spinners?) we were able to get this important piece of legislation passed in the Senate before Congress recessed.
With Hurricane Season Upon Us, Congress Passes Landmark Bill To Leave No Pet Behind
“PETS” Act Requires States to Include Pets and Service Animals in Disaster Plans
WASHINGTON (August 4, 2006) – The Humane Society of the United States praised the U.S. Senate for unanimously approving a Senate substitute to H.R. 3858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, just before adjourning for the August recess. H.R. 3858, as originally introduced in the House, was approved by that chamber in May by an overwhelming vote of 349 to 24.
The PETS Act, introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Chris Shays (R-CT) and in the Senate by U.S. Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), will require local and state disaster plans to include provisions for household pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster or emergency. As this year’s hurricane season approached, The HSUS had lobbied Congress and mounted a national advertising campaign to pass this legislation quickly to keep people and pets together next time disaster strikes.
“The House and Senate have 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, HSUS president and CEO. “We are grateful to Senators Stevens and Lautenberg and Representatives Lantos and Shays for championing this important legislation. We hope it will soon be on its way to President Bush, who said during Hurricane Katrina that he would be sure to take his dog, Barney, if he was forced to evacuate.”
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, many citizens put themselves in danger when they refused to evacuate their flooded and destroyed homes because they didn’t want to abandon their pets. Many people were forced to leave without their pets, adding tremendous anguish for these hurricane victims who had already lost everything. According to a Zogby International Poll conducted in the aftermath of Katrina, 61 percent of pet owners would refuse to evacuate ahead of a disaster if they could not take their pets with them.
The bill that passed the House in May calls for emergency preparedness plans to include consideration of people with pets and service animals before a disaster strikes. The Senate substituted its bill for the House measure, and that measure grants FEMA the authority to assist in developing these plans, authorizes financial help to states to create emergency shelters for people with their animals, and allows the provision of essential assistance for individuals with household pets and service animals, and the animals themselves, following a major disaster. While The HSUS supports both bills, it favors the Senate version because it is more comprehensive
Currently, there are more than 358 million pets in the United States residing in 63 percent of American households. Some states and localities have done extensive planning to coordinate plans with local animal care and control agencies. When Texas called for evacuations in advance of Hurricane Rita, and Florida called for evacuations in advance of Hurricane Wilma, Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Jeb Bush were clear in stating that evacuees should bring their pets along. Maine, New Mexico, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Vermont have passed state legislation, and California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York are now considering bills dealing with animal disaster planning and response.
“Saving animals from the effects of a disaster requires planning by individuals and by government agencies,” said Pacelle. “It’s important to have pets included in government disaster and evacuation planning, but responsibility still lies primarily with individual families to plan ahead and be prepared. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets.”
The House can either take up the Senate version and pass it in that form or a conference committee can work to reconcile differences between the bills.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with more than 9.5 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammals, animals in research, equine protection, and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy and field work. The nonprofit organization is based in Washington and has field representatives and offices across the country. On the web at www.hsus.org.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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