Providing Shelter to Companion Animals in Disasters (California)

A.B. 781

This bill would require counties in California to designate emergency shelters that can accommodate companion animals.


October 9, 2023

Work Type




Update: A.B. 781 was signed into law by Governor Newsom on October 7, 2023! It will be effective 1/1/24.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund supports this bill.

Sponsor: Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-76)
Introduced: February 13, 2023

Natural disasters and extreme weather events such as wildfires and floods are an increasingly prevalent threat in many parts of the U.S. — California high on the list. When disasters strike, individuals and families are often forced to flee their homes. Unfortunately, many emergency shelters do not accept companion animals, and people may feel they have no other option but to leave their animal family members behind. Animals are then left to face the disaster on their own, and often languish as a result.

This bill, Accessibility to emergency information and services: emergency shelters: persons with pets (A.B. 781), would:

  • require California counties to update their emergency plans to designate emergency shelters that can accommodate fleeing residents with companion animals;
  • require that whenever a city or county designates a new emergency shelter, cooling center, or warming center, it must also designate an emergency shelter, cooling center, or warming center that can accommodate people with companion animals; and
  • require cities and counties to maintain publicly available information on whether cooling or warming centers can accommodate companion animals.

Why is this legislation important? It is predicted that extreme weather events — such as the severe flooding that California recently experienced, and its prevalent wildfires — will only worsen with time. Animals are especially vulnerable to these extreme weather conditions. This bill is critical for protecting animals who may be left to suffer — or even die — when they are left behind. It would also protect the millions of Californians who consider their companion animals valued members of the family and suffer greatly when faced with life-or-death decisions in the face of weather emergency or natural disaster. Passage of this bill will help make California better prepared for future disasters.

Coalition support: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)