Since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, major changes have been made to federal and state emergency planning laws with respect to animals. At the time, there were no laws that required that animals be evacuated, rescued or sheltered in an emergency. The lack of provisions for pets put human health and safety in jeopardy because some pet owners chose to weather the storm at home for fear of what would happen to their animals. As a result, federal and state laws have been passed to include provisions for evacuation of animals, rescue and recovery, shelters and tracking in disaster plans.
In 2006, the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act (42 U.S.C.A. § 5196a-d (2006)) was passed. PETS directs the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop emergency preparedness plans and ensure that state and local emergency plans take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals during a major disaster or emergency.
Since then, over 30 states have adopted either a law that deals with disaster planning and pets or have promulgated administrative plans on the subject (see map). Many state laws require that animals be sheltered and evacuated during an emergency. Such plans establish procedures to coordinate federal, state and local government agencies, volunteer organizations, animal interest groups, and veterinary medical personnel for rapid response to natural disasters affecting the health, safety and welfare of people and animals. While these plans differ from state to state, most address several key elements, which include the care of companion animals, the implementation of state animal response teams, the sheltering of animals, and identification of recovered animals.