Senate passes bipartisan bill to protect pets and other animals during and after natural disasters

Bipartisan legislation drafted by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to help protect pets and other animals during and after natural disasters and emergencies passed the Senate.

The Animal Welfare Planning Act (PAW) directs the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create an advisory group with outside experts who will align FEMA guidelines with best practices current animal care practices for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. . The bill is now going to the US House of Representatives for consideration.

“When a disaster or emergency strikes, we need to make sure that every member of our families, including our beloved pets, stays safe,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that no one in Michigan or the entire country will have to choose between their pets and evacuation before extreme weather events. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this crucial bill as soon as possible.

“As a proud dog owner, it is concerning that the needs of animals and veterinary care are often overlooked during disasters. I am thrilled that this bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate, as it will require FEMA to create a task force with outside experts to review current federal guidelines regarding animals in emergency preparedness, response and recovery. to ensure they are in line with current best practice,” the senator said. Portman. “This bill will help ensure that Ohio families and other pet owners have up-to-date guidance to prepare for disasters.”

Animal welfare is often overlooked in disaster response and recovery efforts, and in some cases people refused to evacuate before natural disasters because they didn’t want to abandon their pets. . Following floods, wildfires and hurricanes, the loss of pets can have a significant emotional impact on pet owners, who often consider these pets part of their family. During recent disasters, FEMA and local emergency officials have relied on volunteer agencies and organizations to help with both emergency veterinary services and the relocation of thousands of evacuated and abandoned animals. While many of these pets and service animals were reunited with their families after the initial disaster, there are hundreds who were not.

The Animal Welfare Planning Act (PAW) would require the FEMA Administrator to establish an advisory group to encourage and foster collaborative efforts among individuals and entities working to meet the needs of animals in preparing for disasters. The task force will review current best practices and federal guidance on planning for the sheltering and evacuation of pets, service and service animals, and other animals, as appropriate . If the Administrator, in consultation with the task force, finds that the current federal guidelines do not meet best practices, FEMA is required to issue updated guidelines in consultation with the advisory group.

The senators’ bipartisan bill has been endorsed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute, the National Animal Care & Control Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the National Alliance of State Animal & Agricultural Emergency Programs and the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition.

Below are statements in support of the Senators’ bipartisan legislation:

“IFAW commends Senators Peters and Portman for spearheading this important bill to establish a Task Force on Best Practices and Federal Guidelines for Pets and Other Captive Animals Before, During, and After Disasters,” said Shannon Walajtys, director of Disaster Response & Risk Reduction. International Fund for Animal Welfare program. “Disasters are increasing in frequency and severity, often devastating entire communities, and building resilience is key to protecting human and animal lives. Time and time again we see people refusing to evacuate if they cannot bring their animals with them, including pets, livestock and captive animals in facilities. Additionally, abandoned animals of all species in disaster areas can present unique challenges and dangers to first responders. This important legislation will help identify gaps and provide the guidance needed to better protect animals before, during and after disasters, and the people who love them.

“Americans consider pets to be our family, and protecting the health and safety of animals in the event of disasters is a matter of public concern. About 70% of American households have pets, and disasters Past experiences have shown that disregarding animals in times of crisis leads to an increased risk to human security and compounds the psychological trauma suffered by disaster-affected people,” said Sara Amundson, Chair of the Legislative Fund of the Humane Society.”We are grateful to Senators Peters and Portman for their efforts to ensure that all companion animals as well as service animals and animals in zoos and other facilities are considered in the planning of The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund support a task force that can help ensure that America is ready to help animals in an emergency.

“Every story about natural disasters, whether floods, fires or hurricanes, shows people fleeing with their pets,” said Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs at Animal. Welfare Institute. “Senators Peters and Portman’s bill will ensure that the best information and resources are applied to the work of getting everyone out safely and together.”

“The National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA) realizes the value of the bill proposed by the Senate and fully supports it. Additionally, NACA thanks Senators Peters and Portman for introducing this vital bill and supports the formation of a task force to ensure that before, during and after devastating disasters, pets and the families who love them are protected,” said Jerrica Owen, Executive Director of the National Association for Animal Care and Control. “Animal Control Officers are first responders and are called upon in times of disaster to support rescue and recovery efforts. Preparations and planning that includes pets as part of the family supports their efforts to ensure the safety of the whole family.

“The ASPCA has witnessed firsthand the importance of incorporating animals into emergency plans to prevent further devastation,” said Ingrid Seggerman, ASPCA’s senior director of federal affairs. “This legislation will better protect animals and the people who risk their lives to save them, and we commend Senators Peters and Portman for introducing this bill to create a FEMA-led task force to spread best practices in ‘disaster animal assistance’.

“The National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programs (NASAAEP) and the National Animal Rescue and Shelter Coalition (NARSC) strongly support this legislation,” said Dr Minden Buswell. , President of NASAAEP. “State, local, tribal and territorial emergency officials work tirelessly every day to keep people in their communities safe during disasters and emergencies. They recognize that to protect people, they must also address the issues and needs of pets and other animals in their jurisdictions. We commend Senators Peters and Portman for spearheading this important legislation, which will create an interdisciplinary task force with the potential to identify and resolve some long-standing barriers to effective animal emergency management. The number and severity of devastating disasters experienced in this country in recent years have highlighted the need for additional coordination for disaster planning and management, and this legislation provides a key opportunity to better prepare for and manage animal-related issues in disasters.

“This legislation will lead to greater coordination between all levels of government and the non-governmental sector, where much of the country’s professional animal expertise and response capabilities exist, to better protect human and animal lives. “said Anne McCann, president-elect of the National Animal Rescue and Shelter Coalition. “It has the potential to dramatically reduce suffering and hardship in America before, during and after natural disasters. Both NASAAEP and NARSC are close partners with FEMA and USDA and are eager to see this legislation pass. We thank Senators Peters and Portman for leading this effort.

Read the announcement to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

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