Pet Evacuation Bill in Place: Owners still need to be prepared!
Hurricane season is soon underway and there’s good news and bad news for pet owners.
First the good news.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill on May 8 regarding the evacuation of pets and service animals and approval of the emergency plan of operations.
HB 5189 requires that local civil preparedness plans include provisions for pets and service animals during emergencies.
Connecticut joins 12 other states that have already passed such legislation: California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and New Mexico.
“Thousands of animals were left behind in the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina because residents were not allowed to evacuate with their pets or ignored evacuation orders because they were not able to bring their pets along,” said Joanne Bourbeau, director of the New England Regional Office of the Humane Society of the United States.
According to Hurricane- KatrinaRelief.com, 600,000 pets were killed or left homeless or stranded because they could not be taken to shelters.
A recent Zogby International Poll found that 61 percent of pet owners say they would refuse to evacuate if they could not take their pets with them. Since there are more than 358 million pets living in 63 percent of American households, it’s evident that pets are a huge part of people’s lives.
Here in Connecticut, 56 percent of households have a pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. You can be sure that many are located along Connecticut’s vulnerable shoreline.
The approval of Connecticut’s bill comes on the heels of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act signed by President George W. Bush last October. That legislation requires local and state emergency preparedness authorities to include pets and service animals in their evacuation plans. Local and state authorities must submit these plans in order to qualify for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Now for the bad news.
Once again, weather-meisters have predicted an above-average hurricane season, with 17 named storms, nine hurricanes, and five major storms at category 3 or higher. A similar prediction made last season didn’t materialize, but it’s safe to say that one of these days the Big One will strike Connecticut. Paws crossed for the state’s pets since HB 5186 does not go into effect until October after the worst part of the hurricane season has passed.
This means that pet owner still must have emergency supplies on hand and an evacuation plan in place.
Planning is important, says HSUS, and that involves placing the pet emergency kit near the door or in your car to make it accessible if you need to evacuate quickly. Make sure your pet has visible identification right now before you have to leave home. In addition, make arrangements with a trusted neighbor to evacuate your pets if you are not home.
How local preparedness plans will shape up remains to be seen, but pet owners, especially, those along the shoreline should check periodically with local officials and have their own backup plans in place.
HSUS recommends that the following items should be included in your emergency kit:
- Three-or-more-day supply of food in an airtight, waterproof container along with drinking water and bowls.
- Current photos and physical descriptions of your pets, including details on markings.
- Medications, vaccinations and first aid pet supplies.
- Comfort items such as toys and blankets.
- Small garbage bags.
- For dogs, include leash, harness, and a sturdy carrier large enough to use as a sleeping area.
- For cats, include litter and litter box and a sturdy carrier large enough for transport and for your cat to use as temporary quarters for several days.
By Sally E. Bahner