ASPCA Endorses New Legislation Requiring Disaster Contingency Plans for Animal Facilities

Animal Emergency Planning Act of 2014 requires USDA-licensed facilities to better protect animals during disasters
May 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today commends Rep. Dina Titus, D- Nev., for introducing the Animal Emergency Planning Act of 2014, legislation requiring facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to create contingency plans for emergencies to better protect animals during disaster situations. Such facilities, including commercial animal dealers and research centers, will be expected to develop plans detailing how they will respond to and recover from potential natural disasters and other emergencies that could affect the animals in their care.

“The ASPCA has witnessed firsthand how a lack of preparation for disasters can lead to dire consequences for animals left behind,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “Those who hold a license under the Animal Welfare Act bear a particular responsibility to plan ahead for hurricanes, fires, floods, or other disasters that may strike.  We thank Congresswoman Titus for her efforts to address the needs of animals in the event of an emergency.”

The Animal Emergency Planning Act of 2014 states that facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the AWA must 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.

“Lack of preparedness can have an especially devastating effect on animals and the people who risk their lives to protect them, including local first-responders, non-governmental agencies, and private citizens,” said Representative Titus. “Whether a natural disaster that impacts an entire region or a fire at a local breeding facility, when disaster strikes, commercial animal facilities should be prepared to protect the animals under their care. It is only fair and reasonable to require some demonstration of readiness from those who earn a living from animal-related businesses.”

Following Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation Transportation Standards (PETS) Act in 2006 to require states and localities to take into account the needs of people with pets and service animals during disasters. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently issued a federal rule requiring animal facilities to develop contingency plans.  Unfortunately, the USDA has issued an indefinite stay of implementation on the final rule, prompting federal legislation to help ensure that animals are protected in times of emergency.

Disaster preparedness and relief are a critical part of 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, 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.

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