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understanding the pets act of2006 The PETS Act of 2006 was passed to help evacuating owners and pets together. It's a good start - helping to ensure that people can take their pets along with them during evacuation due to a disaster. But, its effectiveness relies largely on your state and their wilingness to make accommodations for pets. It's just not as inclusive as we'd like to see it be. 

For instance, prvate and public shelters can still deny your pets entry. Hotels can still deny entry. In fact, all that the Act really accomplish was to give states incentive (in the form of funding) to accommodate pets.

This means, FEMA or the State may choose to build extra pet-friendly shelters. It also requires them to include pets in emergency planning, for instance in federal evacuation on buses, pets should now be allowed. There are a few things they should do if they choose, and if they do, they can apply for DHS funds. If they don't, no funding.  

What is the PETS Act and How Does it Work? 

After Hurricane Katrina devasted Louisiana and became the costliest (and largest screw-up in disaster management for both animals and people), the White House called for an evaluation of all actions taken. This included a review of lessons learned by DHS and suggestions on how they can reduce the loss of life (both pets and people) during times of disaster.

In that assessment, it was recommended that DHS require State and local governments develop, implement, and exercise emergency response plans that were to be integrated with all Federal evacuation activities, before State and local governments are able to receive DHS-funded grants.

This act was created as a direct response to the horrific number of animals left behind during Hurricane Katrina as evacuation did not allow pets on buses, in shelters, or provide any assistance during this storm. Congress passed H.R. 3858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (PETS Act) in late 2006.  

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now requires State and local governments, to develop, implement, and exercise emergency response plans and to be integrated into all Federal evacuation activities, before State and local governments are able to receive DHS-funded grants. 

Recently, there’s been a post going around on Facebook that says the following: 

ATTENTION: If you are evacuating to a hotel/motel and they say they DON'T accept pets, don't get ugly, but simply tell them that is against the law & FEMA established that after Hurricane Katrina! The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) was a bipartisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters.

I'm sad to report that this is not true. It is not illegal for hotels to turn guests with pets away during a disaster, nor is it illegal for public or private shelters to do so (although we do consider it to be a completely immoral thing for any business to do). All that the PETS Act did was provide more funding for states to create more pet-friendly shelters and gives more compensation for evacuation. But it doesn't require privately owned properties (like hotels) to waive their pet policy.

Most properties (at least the reputable ones) suspend their "no pets" policies during times of disaster. Well, at least the reputable ones do, but they aren't required to do so by law.

On a side note, it's being reported that the governor of Florida recently told hotels they need to waive their pet policies during Hurricane Irma, but I have yet to see anything officially released on this topic, so don't count on it yet.

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Evacuating with Pets & Livestock

Your guide to evacuating or sheltering in place with pets and livestock.
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What the PETS act does say about pets in hotels and shelters:

The PETS Act divides shelters into 3 categories: Congregate, Transitional, and Animal Shelters

Congregate Shelter. Any private or public facility that provides contingency congregate refuge to evacuees, but that day-to-day serves a non-refuge function. Examples include schools, stadiums, and churches. 

Transitional Shelter. Any private or public facility that, by design, provides a short term lodging function and an increased degree of privacy over a congregate shelter. Examples include hotels, motels, and cruise/berthing ships. 

 Animal Shelters. Generally, congregate sheltering facilities do not allow household pets (except service animals assisting people with disabilities), due to health and safety regulations. Eligible animal shelter costs include costs associated with the provisions of rescue, shelter, care, and essential needs (e.g., inoculations) for evacuee and rescued household pets and service animals, to include veterinary staff for emergency and immediate life-stabilizing care. Exhibition or livestock animals are not eligible for animal sheltering

What is the PETS Act and How Does it Work? 

Immediately after Hurricane Katrina devasted the Fifth district of Louisiana and became the costliest (and the biggest screw up in disaster management), The White House called for an evaluation of all actions taken - which included a review of lessons learned by DHS and suggestions on how they can reduce the loss of life (both pets and people) during times of disaster. In that assessment, it was recommended that DHS require State and local governments develop, implement, and exercise emergency response plans that were to be integrated with all Federal evacuation activities, before State and local governments are able to receive DHS-funded grants.

As a result, FEMA developed a disaster assistance policy titled "Eligible Costs Related to Pet Evacuations and Sheltering," (DAP 9523.19) which provides specific guidelines on expenses that are (or are not) reimbursable to states. This includes how they expend utilize federal and local resources before, during and after events.

In particular, the following items, for which a state could be reimbursed, are enumerated in FEMA's policy (the following summary is borrowed this summary from the AVMA - please see their article for more information):

  • Definition of what a "household animal" is
  • Definition of what a "service animal" is
  • Type of shelter employed
  • What employees are utilized in rescuing animals
  • Facilities, supplies, commodities, and labor used in sheltering operations
  • Type of emergency veterinary services provided
  • Type of transportation utilized in rescue
  • Needs for safety and security of the shelter
  • Cleaning and maintenance of the shelter
  • Services for removal of dead animals
  • Cataloging and tracking systems used for pets
  • Timeframe under which the shelter may operate

Specific challenges that continue to be addressed include the following:

  1.  Receipt retention for reimbursement
  2. Need for federal identification numbers and/or proof of nonprofit status
  3. Utilizing vehicles that fit the DAP 9523.19 requirements (ie., non-personal)
  4. Need for federal declaration, which may not be in place during the early days of a disaster
  5. Recognition that states typically are reimbursed for 75% of their expenditures during a federally-declared emergency (including state usage of volunteer hours as 'in-kind' services to meet the state's 25%)
  6. Meeting the minimum $1000 per worksheet of expenditures for reimbursement to be considered

Additional Reading:

If you get bored during the storm and you’re looking for some reading, we recommend these resources: 

Other Articles You May Enjoy:

stacymantle
Author: stacymantle
About the Author

Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who currently resides in the southwestern deserts of Arizona with a few dogs, several cats, and a very understanding husband. She is a regular contributor to Pet Age Magazine, Catster, Animal Behavior College, and of course, PetsWeekly. Many of her stories and articles have been translated into several languages, and now reach an international audience. She is also the author of a bestselling urban fantasy/thriller, Shepherd's Moon; a humor book entitled, Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One), and a line of Educational Activity Books for children.


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