USDA Already Waffling on New Animal Disaster-Plan Rule

Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 4:30pm
USDA Already Waffling on New Animal Disaster-Plan Rule

Guest blog by Deborah Dubow Press, Regulatory Affairs Senior Manager, ASPCA Government Relations

It has been nearly eight years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, forever changing the way America responds to natural disasters. The human and animal suffering wrought by Katrina and Superstorm Sandy should remain fresh in our minds as we enter another hurricane season, and preparedness should top the agendas of animal caretakers and policy makers.

That’s why yesterday we were shocked to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may be reconsidering the disaster plan rule requiring all facilities licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act—this includes breeders, zoos, research facilities, dealers, and other exhibitors and intermediate handlers—to prepare emergency plans for protecting and caring for animals during disasters. Asking those who use animals commercially to demonstrate a level of readiness to protect animals in their custody is fair and reasonable. We are dismayed by the possibility that the USDA would waver on a rule that could save lives at such a small cost.

For the ASPCA responders who experienced Katrina, Sandy, and countless other disaster deployments firsthand, the horrors of these events have not faded from memory: dogs chained in yards and left to drown; cats starving to death in homes after evacuations dragged on and on; animals covered in oil and toxic sludge; dogs stranded on rooftops; animals wandering the streets malnourished, dehydrated, and frightened, many never to be reunited with their owners.

The more that pet owners and animal facilities prepare for emergencies, the better responders can focus their relief efforts when disaster strikes. We hope that ultimately the USDA will remember the heartbreaks of Katrina, Sandy, Joplin, and countless other disasters and renew its resolve to protect imperiled animals under its jurisdiction.

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As usual, your intentions sound good and reasonable, but in reality they are not. To have all the groups you list, 'includes breeders, zoos, research facilities, dealers, and other exhibitors and intermediate handlers' and you also mention owners to have a "Plan" approved by the USDA for events that are often unlikely to occur is unreasonable. I think your actual goal is to put all of these group out of business, close zoos, close breeders, research facilities, etc. That is your true reason, so just admit it and be honest with your members.


I think this is the first time I've commented on anything on here, but the article was of interest to me and I definitely think it's important to have an emergency respond plan. Paul, your last statement seems to be one of hatred towards the ASPCA. From reading this article, I clearly see the importance of animals also being safe during these times. Putting those groups of out business is actually the thing that seems most unreasonable or unrealistic, therefore the ASPCA is asking for something realistic. I'm not sure what you mean by "events that are often unlikely to occur" since natural disasters have been happening quite a lot recently, not just in the U.S. and it's always better to be prepared.

David Corral

Paul: If you believe that it is UNreasonable to have a plan, then perhaps what is unreasonable is to actually "handle" animals instead of protecting their natural habitats and protecting them to live free. What I read is that you are convinced that doing "business" with animals is the right thing, when in fact is NOT. Protecting animals and nature is our duty, now, if we "MUST" handle them, use them, parade them and enjoy them then the "price" for such activities and profits earned from it should go UP in order to acommodate such REQUIREMENT of safety.
In my opinion the purpose of a Zoo (secondary to being open to public) should be to protect and preserve animals, rescue them from abuse and care for them for the benefit of nature and the harmful intervention of humans. All the "other" organizations mentioned should not even exist!
To USDA perhaps if within budget it is not feasable financially, no one should aquire a "license" to handle animals.
A better world has to include a natural world.. let´s stop going against nature and animals.


Paul, considering that the rule applies to facilities that already have to be licensed and inspected by the USDA, it's hardly unreasonable for those inspections to include checking whether the facilities have a disaster-preparedness plan. This does not add significant work for the USDA, and it *is* reasonable to expect businesses and facilities that use/house animals to have a plan to protect - as the USDA website says - both the animals and the employees. You also claim that these things are "unlikely to occur" (implying that it's an unreasonable requirement to make people think about unlikely but devastating disasters). I'm pretty sure the whole concept of a disaster is that it's unusual and unpredictable and that's why you're supposed to have a plan for it. It also seems you may not have read the USDA rule, which specifies that "Each contingency plan will need to: identify types of emergencies common in the local area; identify common emergencies that could occur at their particular type of facility ...". In other words: this is a very reasonable rule. Will such a rule put some people out of business? Possibly, but that's the point of safety regulations in general: to put those facilities out of business that cannot operate responsibly.


Hey Paul... stop trolling and go f*#k yourself.

Republicans rock

Right. Putting "breeders, zoos, research facilities, dealers, and other exhibitors and intermediate handlers' out of business is exactly MY intent, and what I want: universally. If you need an animal to make a living, then it's time to go get an education and a real job. Stop asking the government to watch-dog animal abuse, as they are clearly incapable of that, TOO. Just remove the access to animal ownership, other than a private pet, altogether.


I was hoping to learn some factual information in this blog post, but it reads like heavy-breathing drama. Give us some facts. Be specific. What was said, who said it, and why would they consider doing this. (Basic journalistic approach.) tia.

Barbara Minsky

To ask for an emergency plan for protecting animals in their care seems to me the least one could expect from people earning their living from these animals. Given the rise of more climate emergencies, it's imperative that people have a plan in place, especially those who care for multiple animals, and that the USDA should be insisting on the plan not trying to get out of requiring it.
Please keep pressure on this agency to do what's right for living, sentient beings not to give way to commercial interests. Thanks for your work, on behalf of animals and their caretakers.


Unbelievable! These are some of the groups who should be LEADING the way and setting examples for the average animal household. As a first responder myself I continue to see time and time again the message is just now starting to get through to some animal owners to have a plan. Now, the USDA comes up with this? Have they forgot why so many people did not leave their homes during Katrina? Have they forgot why the PETS act was inacted and what it means? Why should a zoo, breeder (sigh) or any other agency be negligent in this area? This really makes my blood boil when they are endangering the lives of not only these helpless animals who have no say but then the first responders who then will be called upon to help (en mass) and deter from others as well. Another bad, bad idea from the USDA, :(

Lais Oliveira

Sure, let's get all these animals locked up defenseless and not plan in case of a disaster... More, let's not plan for humans, too. This is ridiculous! Since humankind has started to keep animals under their control they are responsible for their safety and well-being. If one can't provide decent care for animals, they shouldn't be allowed to keep them. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...