ASPCA Commends Federal Lawmakers for Introducing Bill to Protect Animals During Disasters

As severe weather continues impacting many regions across the country, the PREPARED Act will require USDA-licensed facilities to develop emergency plans to protect animals during disasters
February 26, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today commends U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) for reintroducing the Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act, to require businesses that profit off animals – such as animal dealers, research institutions, large scale commercial dog breeders, and zoos – to create well-formed contingency plans for emergencies to better protect the animals in their care during disaster situations.

“The unprecedented winter storms in Texas demonstrate how a lack of preparation for disasters can lead to dire consequences for animals as well as the humans who risk their lives to protect them,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “Facilities that hold licenses under the Animal Welfare Act bear a special responsibility to plan ahead for severe weather, fires, floods, and other emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, and we thank Representatives Titus and Davis for their efforts to protect these very vulnerable animals.”

“Sadly, through countless disasters, we’ve witnessed that if animal facilities do not have a plan in place when emergency strikes, it is already too late,” said Rep. Titus. “The safety of animals shouldn’t be an afterthought. This bipartisan bill will ensure that zoos, commercial breeders, and research centers are able to save the lives of animals under their care by preparing for disasters ahead of time. I’m grateful for the support of Representative Davis and the many animal advocacy organizations that are helping advance this important legislation.”

“When natural disasters strike, animals are put in danger the same as people and property which is why it is imperative those caring for them have an emergency plan in place,” said Rep. Davis. “The bill that Rep. Titus and I are introducing will require USDA-regulated facilities to have a disaster emergency plan in place to ensure the welfare of the animals under their care.”

The PREPARED Act requires facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to identify emergencies likely to occur at their location and outline specific tasks that staff should take if such events occur. They must establish a clear chain of command for employees to follow and ensure that all pertinent employees are trained on the plans kept on file with the USDA.

To help avoid future tragedies at AWA licensed facilities, such as the 8,000 animals killed at a medical school in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, the USDA finalized rulemaking in December 2012 requiring these facilities to develop contingency plans. Unfortunately, since 2013 the USDA has indefinitely delayed the implementation of this rule, putting animals in jeopardy. In the FY2021 Omnibus and COVID Relief and Response Act, Congress directed the USDA to reconsider the disaster plan requirement after years of delay. The PREPARED Act would permanently codify the essential elements of the delayed rule to ensure animals are cared for in emergencies. The need for this reform has only intensified in recent years with more frequent and severe weather patterns taking hold.

The ASPCA deploys nationwide to assist in relocation, search-and-rescue, sheltering and placement of animals during disaster situations including severe weather, wildfires, tornadoes and floods. Additionally, the ASPCA works closely with local agencies across the country to help enhance animal response capabilities through grants and training opportunities.

Relocating homeless animals during a disaster situation is a lifesaving component of disaster relief work as it not only gives shelter animals a second chance to find new, loving homes, but also frees up essential space and resources so local animal welfare organizations can provide support for impacted pet owners and displaced pets. To assist Texas animal shelters impacted by the recent weather crisis, the ASPCA transported more than 170 dogs and cats via ground and air to shelters in the Northeast where they will be cared for until they can be adopted into safe, loving homes.

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