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ASPCA Applauds Massachusetts Lawmakers for Passing Law to Protect People with Pets in Disasters

Governor urged to sign measure allowing pet owners to bring their pets with them to emergency shelters
March 13, 2014

NEW YORK— The ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) commends the Massachusetts House of Representatives for passing S.1172, which would require local governments to include strategies in their emergency operations plans to support the needs of people with household pets or service animals in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. The Senate passed this bill in 2013, and it now heads to Gov. Deval Patrick to be signed into law.

“Many pet owners will deliberately place themselves in grave danger rather than abandon their pets if advised they cannot bring their pets to a shelter,” said Bill Ketzer, senior state director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Northeast region. “More than 50 percent of Massachusetts households have pets, so we strongly urge Governor Patrick to sign this legislation to protect these pets and their owners, as other Northeastern states like Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey have done by enacting laws to make local governments stronger partners in disaster planning.”

In 2006, the U.S. Congress enacted the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, which requires state and local governments to include how they will accommodate households with pets or service animals in their respective disaster preparedness programs. These provisions factor into a given state’s application for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Despite the PETS Act, many local emergency management directors have not included animals in their disaster plans or established mutual aid agreements with animal response agencies, making the state legislative action necessary.

“In most situations and in most states, the animal response is initiated and controlled at the local level,” said Dr. Dick Green, senior director of disaster response for the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response Team.  “Poor or non-existent local planning for pet owners has resulted in human casualties, compromised response efforts and ultimately a more costly recovery, and this bill will help to limit the effects of these unexpected events on the pet owners of Massachusetts.” 

The ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response (FIR) team frequently responds to hurricanes and other natural disasters around the country, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Joplin tornado in 2011, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, in addition to being called upon by state and municipal governments and other animal welfare partners to lend expertise during large-scale animal rescue operations.