DARIEN, Conn . — Friends of Animals (FoA) and Best Friends Animal Society urge state governments across the country to provide effective disaster planning for pets. A national survey conducted by Friends of Animals to evaluate emergency plans for pets found preparations to be woefully inadequate in most states.
Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, stated: “Even as the 2006 hurricane season approaches, few states have come up with any specific plan to rescue and provide shelter for pets. Given the severe problems caused when pets were barred from transport and shelters during Hurricane Katrina, it is imperative that states focus on addressing pets in evacuation and sheltering plans.”
Adds Feral, “Each of the 50 states informed us about current state plans that address animals in disasters. Florida has considered the importance of safely bringing animals out of homes when disaster strikes and has a system in place. But 11 states, including Michigan and Kansas, have not even stated an interest in the matter of pet evacuation and sheltering. And a majority of states that purport to have plans, such as Alaska and Virginia, only briefly mention pets.”
A federal Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act has been introduced in Congress to compel states to act. The bill would make federal assistance dependent upon the state having a disaster plan that considers the needs of pets in transport and sheltering. The proposed legislation imposes no specific directives or criteria, leaving the details to state planners.
When it comes to the essential aspects of disaster planning, FoA urges state planners to follow the recommendations of the Best Friends Animals Society, a Utah-based sanctuary with experience accompanying units of the 82nd Airborne during the hurricane Katrina rescue effort. According to Francis Battista, a founder of Best Friends, “An effective plan must provide for evacuating pets with their families, as Florida does, all the way to their temporary shelter or evacuation city. Temporary human shelters should have companion shelters for housing their pets.”
Adds Battista, “In a major disaster such as Katrina, the need far exceeds the capacity of local animal agencies. There is no shortage of willing and capable volunteers, but an effective system of training, organizing and deployment is lacking. This was a source for much confusion following Katrina.”
To facilitate the development of plans, FoA has created “Animal Disaster Plans of U.S. States,” available online. It shows, in easy-to-read terms, the status of state preparations, complete with copies of all available plans. This database will assist and inform the media and advocates regarding mitigation, preparedness, rescue and recovery of animals. It will be updated as states address pets in evacuation and sheltering plans.