Preparing for disaster is harrowing enough when preparing for your family for disaster and possible evacuation and sheltering,  but how many think about you most beloved family member  – your pet(s)?

Planning for your pets is your responsibility!

Hurricane Katrina in 2005, helped realize the need for Pet Disaster Planning in all Federal, State and Local disaster plans.

In disaster events prior to Katrina in 2005, where quick or immediate evacuation was necessary for life safety, a large number of citizens refused to evacuate their homes without their pets. Most helicopter pilots and rescue boat captains refused to load pets in order to hold more people. This created major problems for both pets and pet owners.Some pets were killed during the events and others were later euthanized due to injury or illness. Still other pets were abandoned by their owners or were lost in the confusion and were never reunited with their families.

In the fall of 2006, Congress passed H.R. 3858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (PETS Act). In discussing the Pets Act, Rep. Christopher Shays, (Connecticut) with Rep. Tom Lantos, (California), a co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus, said estimates are that some 600,000 animals either died or were left without shelter as a result of Hurricane Katrina. He added that the lack of pet rescue plans also put many pet owners in danger. “When asked to choose between abandoning their pets or their personal safety, many pet owners chose to risk their lives,” he said. (Huffington

When citizens were asked why they refused to evacuate, many stated they stayed behind with their pets because they feared they would have to surrender their pets if they brought them to a shelter, as had happened in previous disaster events nationwide.

  1. What does the PETS Act do?(
  2. The PETS Act amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.

The PETS Act authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency.

For DHS and its agency that oversees emergency response – the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – to implement the PETS Act effectively, two other documents support FEMA’s activities to ensure optimal preparedness and response associated with companion animals:

Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA):
PKEMRA codifies and expands FEMA’s regional office structure and strengthens its all-hazards operational framework and coordination capabilities. It expanded the federal role in emergency response by designating FEMA as the sole primary agency, and it added additional authorities and responsibilities for FEMA to, among other actions, ensure pet rescue and shelter. In an emergency wherein the federal government will assist a state, FEMA will procure support from federal partner agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the American Red Cross partners.

National Response Framework (NRF):
The NRF is a document that establishes a comprehensive, national, all-hazards approach to emergency response. It identifies the key response principles, roles and structures that organize national response. It describes how communities, States, the Federal Government and private-sector and nongovernmental partners apply key response principles for a coordinated and effective nationwide response.

While the PETS Act was a catalyst for implementation of preparedness plans at the state and local levels of government, it takes all three documents (PETS Act, PKEMRA, and the NRF) for a truly effective and comprehensive response.

Although the Pets Act of 2006 says planning should include pets, you must understand pets are considered personal property in Washington State. Discretion during disaster is left to the pilot or boat captain whether pets will be allowed, especially if there are more people to be rescued. While evacuation planning and sheltering needs of pets are part of all disaster plans, primary consideration will be given to citizen evacuees and their health and welfare.

Remember, planning for your pets is your responsibility !

The following article will assist all families in pet planning for disaster. The article encompasses all types of pets and how you can best prepare them for possible evacuation and sheltering.