State and Federal Disaster Planning Laws and Pets

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Brief Summary of State Emergency Planning Laws for Animals
Cynthia Hodges, J.D., LL.M., M.A.  (2011)

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.

 

Overview of State Emergency Planning Laws for Animals
Cynthia Hodges, J.D., LL.M., M.A. (2011)

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. Estimates suggest that up to 250,000 animals may have died in the aftermath of Katrina. The lack of provisions for pets in disaster planning also 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. FEMA may also make financial contributions to state and local authorities for animal emergency preparedness purposes. PETS has been criticized because it does not require any specific action be taken.

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 following:

    •    the care of companion animals;
    •    the implementation of state animal response teams;
    •    the sheltering of animals; and
    •    identification of recovered animals.

Some states also address the specific needs of individuals with service animals and non-companion animals, such as livestock, zoo animals, or wild animals.

The animal care and control functions of many state emergency plans include preparedness, response, rescue, evacuation, emergency medical care, temporary confinement, food, water, and identification in order to return it to its owner.

During the preparedness phase, pet-friendly shelters and confinement areas, such as kennels, barns, and pastures, are identified. Food, water, identification tags or collars, and medical supplies are procured, and incident command posts, mobilization centers, and staging areas are pre-established.

The response phase includes those activities immediately necessary to preserve life and property. This includes search and rescue and finding emergency shelter, housing, food, and water. For example, Louisiana's emergency plan calls for the state to set up pet evacuation shelters once it is clear that people and their pets are moving out of harm’s way.  The state provides transportation for people and pets from parish pick up points to evacuation shelters. The state provides veterinary service and security at the animal shelters, but owners are responsible for taking care of their own pets and must provide three days worth of food and any necessary medications. It is public policy to shelter service animals and their owners together (also in New Hampshire).

During the recovery phase, agencies operating animal shelters are responsible for identifying and reuniting animals with their owners, or adopting out or disposing of unclaimed animals. Some emergency plans call for the development of a database of local resources to be used for animal disaster response. Such a database may include, for example, county animal emergency plans, a list of county animal emergency coordinators, available animal shelters and confinement areas.

Since Hurricane Katrina, federal and state emergency planning laws have been changed to require that animals be evacuated, transported, and sheltered. The state emergency plans then outline the steps to be taken during the preparedness, response and recovery phases of a disaster.

Related articles

Pets in the Eye of the Storm: Hurricane Katrina Floods the Courts with Pet Custody Disputes, Megan McNabb, 14 Animal Law 71 (2007).

Breed-Specific Legislation: The Gap in Emergency Preparedness Provisions for Household Pets, Amy Cattafi, 32 Seton Hall Legis. J. 351 (2008).

No Shelter from the Storm: How the execution of pets by law enforcement at Beauregard Middle School in St. Bernard Parish in the aftermath of Katrina violated the constitutional rights of pet owners , Kelly A. Jenkins, Animal Legal & Historical Center (2007).

Related cases

Augillard v. Madura , 257 S.W.3d 494 (Tex.App.-Austin,2008). This appeal arises from a suit for conversion filed by Shalanda Augillard alleging that Tiffany Madura and Richard Toro wrongfully exercised dominion and control over Augillard's black cocker spaniel, Jazz, who was recovered from New Orleans in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina. The central issue at trial and the only disputed issue on appeal is whether Augillard's dog, Jazz, and the dog that Madura adopted from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Hope, are in fact the same dog.

Arguello v. Behmke , 2006 WL 205097 (N.J.Super.Ch.,2006) (not reported in A.2d). The plaintiff left her dog, Chopper, at an animal shelter in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with an agreement that she would pick Chopper up several weeks later. The animal shelter placed the dog up for adoption before the expiration of the agreed upon time and the plaintiff sued to replevy the dog. The court found that because of the bailment contract the animal shelter had no ability to transfer ownership of Chopper to his new owner and ordered his return to the plaintiff. The court also found that plaintiff met her burden of proving that the dog was in fact Chopper.

Related laws

Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (42 U.S.C.A. § 5196 - 5196d)

 

Related Links

FEMA Information for Pet Owners - http://www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/animals.shtm

Humane Society of the United States - Disaster Planning for Pets, Family - http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2011/03/disaster_planning_2011.html

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