Thursday, May 7, 2009

Excerpt from draft of new FEMA guidelines for handling pets in emergency operations

The following is a brief introduction to - A Guide for State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local Governments.  The guide is very long and is currently only in draft form. It will be posted on the website when it is in its final version.

DRAFT - Incorporating Household Pets and Service Animals Considerations into Emergency Operations Plans - DRAFT

Today, more than 60 percent of American households own a pet, an increase from 56 percent in 1988. Nearly half of pet owners consider their animals to be members of the family. The power of the relationship between people and their pets or service animals is readily apparent during disaster evacuations. Prior to the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, storm evacuees refused to leave their residences because first responders would not allow their pets to evacuate with them. This endangered or cost the lives of both the owners and their pets; as a result of this situation, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was enacted by Congress in 2006. This legislation was designed to ensure that governments plan for the evacuation, rescue, sheltering, and essential needs of household pets and service animals in the wake of a disaster.

Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 302 is designed to provide guidance for incorporating Household Pets and Service Animals Plans (HPSAPs) into State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local emergency operations plans (EOPs). Each HPSAP should comply with the PETS Act, which contains the following provisions:

·        It requires that local emergency preparedness operational plans take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.

·        It requires the provision of essential assistance (e.g., rescue, care, shelter, and basic needs) to individuals with household pets and service animals, and to their animals, following a disaster.

In support of the PETS Act, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued Disaster Assistance Policy (DAP) 9523.19 entitled, “Eligible Costs Related to Pet Evacuations and Sheltering.” This policy guides the reimbursement process for governments seeking public assistance for pet-related emergency activities. According to DAP 9523.19, governments that receive evacuees from areas declared a major disaster or emergency may seek reimbursement for eligible pet rescue, sheltering, and evacuation-support costs. Governments outside the designated disaster area may seek reimbursement under mutual aid protocols through the affected and supported states. For more detail, please refer directly to DAP 9523.19, which can be found on FEMA’s Public Assistance Web page.

This CPG not only reflects the requirements of the PETS Act of 2006, but it also incorporates National Incident Management System (NIMS) and National Response Framework (NRF) concepts and recommendations from the 2005 Nationwide Plan Review (NPR) as part of a larger planning modernization effort.


Based on human and pet population estimates from 2007, there were 82 million cats living with humans in this country. Three out of ten people reading this guide will own a cat. Combine this statistic with the number of domestic dogs, 72 million, gives us an estimated number of 154 million dogs and cats in the nation. In the same year, the human population of the United States was estimated to be 301 million. There is almost one pet for every two people. This fact alone is staggering; and, considering that dog and cat owners spent $23.2 million on veterinary expenditures last year, it’s safe to say that pet welfare is an important aspect of daily life.

Historical incidents have shown that citizens may refuse to evacuate from a disaster area when first responders will not provide for the care of their household pets. These pet owners may choose to shelter in place with their animals and manage the consequences of a disaster alone. Depending on the severity of destruction, rescue workers may not reach such individuals for days or weeks. Human life and safety would clearly be in jeopardy during such situations. Considering these facts, ensuring animal welfare by incorporating household pet and service animal considerations into emergency operational plans is vital to protecting human life and safety.