Victory: Congress Passes Bill to Help Animals During Disasters

September 14, 2022

Great news! The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Planning for Animal Wellness (PAW) Act, just weeks after the Senate passed its version of the bill. The PAW Act sets groundwork for collaborative relationships between government agencies and other experts to incorporate pets into disaster planning—including preparedness, response and recovery efforts. At a time when overwhelming bipartisan support for a bill is rare, we are thrilled that the PAW Act sailed through Congress and is now on its way to President Biden for his signature!

This timely victory comes during National Preparedness Month and the five-year anniversaries of Hurricanes HarveyIrma and Maria, devastating storms that displaced millions of people and pets in 2017. 

Sponsored by Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the PAW Act will direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish a working group of experts to review current best practices for animals in emergencies and natural disasters—and issue new guidance, if necessary.

Importance of the PAW Act

A 2021 ASPCA survey revealed that 83% of pet owners reported living in communities vulnerable to natural disasters. A lack of emergency resources and co-sheltering options can force families to face an agonizing decision: shelter in place to stay with their animals, or evacuate without them. The PAW Act will help ensure that pets, captive animals and service animals are considered in disaster planning and emergency response so families will not have to choose between their own safety and the safety of their pets.

“We’ve seen firsthand how incorporating animals into disaster plans can prevent avoidable tragedy, making the PAW Act a critical measure to protect these animals and the people who risk their lives to save them,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We’re grateful to Representatives Titus and DeFazio, as well as Senators Peters and Portman, for championing this legislation to create a FEMA-led working group to establish best practices for assisting animals in disasters, and we look forward to continuing our collaborative work to save and protect these vulnerable animals.”

It's important to recognize when our elected officials vote the right way for animals. Please visit our web alert to send your members of Congress a short, pre-drafted note of thanks for supporting the PAW Act.