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Senate Passes Senator Spilka’s Bill to Ensure the Safety of Pets in Disasters

October 10, 2013

The Massachusetts Senate today passed legislation that would further advance the safety of Massachusetts citizens during disasters or emergencies by requiring emergency evacuation plans to include household pets and service animals. Senate Bill 1172, filed by State Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), would improve public safety by ensuring that the needs of people with household pets are addressed in the case of an emergency.

During a disaster or emergency requiring the evacuation of homes, the failure to evacuate becomes a critical public safety and public health issue. Without emergency evacuation plans specifically addressing their pets and service animals, many citizens refuse to evacuate, endangering themselves and first responders.

“In the case of a natural disaster or other emergency, many people are reluctant to leave their pets and service animals behind. The animals that do get left behind often suffer tragic consequences,” Spilka said. “Victims of a disaster should not have to suffer the additional emotional stress of having to abandon their household pets as well.”

Spilka’s legislation would allow Massachusetts to join several other states as a leader in the area of pet evacuation and emergency preparedness planning. At the federal level, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act requires states accepting federal funding for homeland security preparedness to provide for animals in their state-level disaster planning. However, state level legislation is needed so that local civil defense agencies in cities and towns also include provisions for animals.

The bill will now be considered by the House.

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