Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) was a bi-partisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking FEMA assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters. [ [http://www.house.gov/shays/news/2005/september/PETS.pdf Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act] House of Representatives website. September 2005. Accessed August 30 2007.] Introduced by Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-California) and Christopher Shays (D-Connecticut) on September 22 2005, the bill passed the House of Representatives on May 22 2006 by a margin of 349 to 29. [Shays, Christopher. [http://www.house.gov/shays/issues/animal/index.htm#pets Animal Welfare: Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act] House of Representatives website. Accessed August 30 2007.] Technically an amendment to the Stafford Act, it was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 6 2006. [ [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061006-15.html President Bush Signs H.R. 3858, the "Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006"] White House (press release). Accessed September 10 2007.] The bill is now Public Law 109-308. [ [http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.03858: H.R.3858] Library of Congress. Accessed August 30 2007.]

Background

The bill was initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the abandonment of many thousands of pets and other animals brought the matter of animal welfare to national attention. [Nolen, R. Scott. October 15 2005. [http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/oct05/051015a.asp Katrina's other victims] . The Journal of the American Veterinary Association (JAVMA). Accessed August 30 2005.] The bill's primary proposer, Tom Lantos, indicated that a press picture of a child being separated from his dog was the bill's catalyst; "The dog was taken away from this little boy, and to watch his face was a singularly revealing and tragic experience. This legislation was born at that moment."Kemper, Bob. May 23 2006. [http://westmoreland.house.gov/news/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=44148 Pet-loving Georgians call bill a disaster] . Atlanta Journal Constitution. (Reprinted at the House of Representatives site of Congressman Lynn A. Westmoreland). Accessed August 30 2007.] On the congressional record for the bill, he explained more fully:

"The scene from New Orleans of a 9-year-old little boy crying because he was not allowed to take his little white dog Snowball was too much to bear. Personally, I know I wouldn't have been able to leave my little white dog Masko to a fate of almost certain death. As I watched the images of the heartbreaking choices the gulf residents had to make, I was moved to find a way to prevent this from ever happening again." [ [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/record.xpd?id=109-h20060920-51&bill=h109-3858 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 Section 51] . United States House of Representatives. September 20 2006. Accessed August 31 2007.]

The Hurricane Katrina animals

Stories of abandoned pets after Katrina filled the media. [see, for example, [http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/HurricaneKatrina/story?id=1113609 More and more abandoned pets in New Orleans rescued] and [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0909_050909_katrina_petrescue.html Katrina's stranded pets spur massive aid effort] .] The issue raised questions of class concern, as animal welfare activist noted in the "Washington Post" that some hotels who took in evacuees allowed customers to bring their pets, but those forced to rely on public assistance had no options. [Dawn, Karen. September 10 2005. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/09/AR2005090901824.html Best friends need shelter, too] Washington Post. Accessed August 30 2007.]

One particular case that garnered widespread attention was that of "Snowball", a small white dog made famous by "Associated Press" reporter Mary Foster's coverage of the evacuation of the New Orleans Louisiana Superdome. [ [http://www.prleap.com/pr/14333/ Snowball, Snowball, the little dog who broke the nation's heart!] September 7 2005. PR Leap Business News. Accessed August 30 2007.] The authorities who assisted evacuees onto buses refused to allow pets to board. Foster reported that "Pets were not allowed on the bus, and when a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. 'Snowball, snowball,' he cried." [Foster, Mary. September 1 2005. [http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8CBPBCG0&show_article=1 Superdome Evacuations Enter Second Day] Associated Press. Accessed August 30 2007.]

The story of "Snowball" became a centerpiece in fundraising appeals by welfare organizations and various ad-hoc websites were created by people soliciting funds to help locate Snowball and reunite him with the boy. [See, for example, [http://www.katrinafoundpets.com/snowball_fund.htm Snowball Fund] .] On September 6th, 2005 "USA Today" reported that Terry Conger, a veterinarian and information officer for the Incident Command Center that coordinated animal rescue efforts in Louisiana, said state veterinary officers had confirmed that Snowball is safe in a Louisiana shelter and that his owner had been located in Texas. [Manning, Anita. September 6 2005. [http://www.usatoday.com/life/2005-09-06-katrina-pets_x.htm Rescuers scramble to reach animals left in dire straits] . USA Today. Accessed August 30 2007.] However, it appears the veterinarian officials were mistaken. On September 10, 2005 the Lexington Herald-Leader quoted Dr. Conger as saying that original reports of Snowball's recovery were inaccurate and that "the chances of finding it [Snowball] and returning it to its owner are next to nil".Fact|date=July 2008

Opposition

While the bill received wide support, it did have opponents. Two Representatives from the State of Georgia who opposed, Lynn Westmoreland-(R) and Charlie Norwood-(R), announced through spokesmen concerns that the law would unfairly impose federal control over state governance and negatively impact resources from other areas of emergency planning necessary to protect human lives.

See also

Social effects of Hurricane Katrina

References


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