ASPCA Applauds New Federal Rule Requiring Disaster Contingency Plans

USDA amends Animal Welfare Act regulations to require facilities to develop natural disaster, emergency plans
December 31, 2012

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today welcomed the new federal rule issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requiring facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to create contingency plans for emergencies to better protect animals during disaster situations. The facilities will be expected to develop a plan detailing how they will respond to and recover from potential natural disasters and other emergencies that could affect the animals in their care.

"We are thrilled that the USDA has taken these critical steps to better address the needs of animals in the event of an emergency," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "Requiring federally-regulated facilities to have a plan in place will ensure that the animals affected by both natural and man-made disasters will be properly cared for and that the caregivers know what steps to take in these situations."

The new rule states that all USDA-licensed facilities must identify emergencies common to their location and facility and outline the specific tasks that staff should take in case of an emergency. They must establish a clear chain of command for employees to follow and ensure that all pertinent employees are trained on the plan. The facilities have the freedom to develop plans according to their own personal needs and are not required to secure USDA approval of their plan. However, USDA inspectors can request to see the plan and will work with facilities on improving plans if needed.

"The ASPCA has witnessed firsthand how important contingency plans are, and how integral they can be in preventing further devastation, most recently with our efforts before, during and after Hurricane Sandy," added Perry. "Implementing disaster plans will enable caregivers to provide their animals with the necessary resources during an emergency, so the recovery afterwards will not be as overwhelming."

Disaster preparedness and relief are integral to the ASPCA’s mission. The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team frequently responds to natural disasters, including major events like Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and the Joplin, Mo. 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.

For more information on the ASPCA and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit