Responding to Disasters

Winston in a raincoat (By Will Marlow)

Superstorm Sandy proved to be one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. As with all natural disasters, the safety of human and nonhuman animals is a top priority. ALDF has compiled these select resources for nonhumans and their guardians in the impacted areas.

All of the resources have a common theme. Take your pet with you. In any emergency this is the best thing for you and your companion animals. There are many online services that allow you to search for animal friendly hotels in your area. Search “pet friendly hotel.” A list of animal friendly shelters in the impacted areas has been compiled here.

New Jersey has a guide for pets and disasters, including emergency preparation tips and a checklist of necessities. The Department of Agriculture in New Jersey also has recommendations what to do during a disaster.

New York has a similar guide for how to evacuate with your pet, and what to do after an emergency. The Empire State Animal Response Team also has a resource. Ready.gov has a guide for people and their animals, stressing not to leave pets behind in an emergency.

Lessons From Katrina

As animals in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast awaited rescue in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, ALDF attorneys were already burning the midnight oil to provide the legal resources necessary for rescuers and shelters dealing with the overwhelming numbers of sick and abandoned animals struggling for survival. We also support critical legislation to ensure that animals are never again left to fend for themselves in the case of natural disaster.

Animal shelters and other animal protection organizations may gain temporary custody of animals who are the subjects of court cases or who have been rescued from natural disasters or other unfortunate circumstances. Shelters without the resources to house large numbers of animals can adapt and use ALDF’s sample Foster Care Application and Foster Care Agreement forms as part of a foster care program to establish temporary foster homes for the animals.

In August 2006, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a Senate substitute to HR 3858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, which would give FEMA wider authority in developing disaster plans.

Introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) and in the Senate by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), both bills would require local and state disaster plans to include provisions for companion animals and service animals in the event of a major disaster or emergency.

The Senate substituted a more comprehensive version for HR 3858, which would grant FEMA the authority to assist in developing disaster plans and make financial contributions to state and local authorities to procure or construct emergency animal shelters, and allow the federal government to provide direct assistance during a disaster to help people with companion animals and service animals, as well as the animals themselves, following a major disaster. In September 2006, the House passed the Senate version of the Act, and in October 2006, the President signed the bill into law.

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