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House and Senate Pass Bill to Ensure Safety of Pets in Disasters

March 17, 2014

The Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives today passed legislation to further advance the safety of Massachusetts citizens during natural disasters, lead sponsor of the bill Senator Karen Spilka announced. The bill requires emergency evacuation plans to include household pets and service animals and 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.

“As a dog owner and animal lover, I understand the reluctance of many people to leave their pets behind in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency,” said Senator Spilka. “Victims of a disaster should not have to suffer the additional emotional stress of having to abandon their household pets. I’m glad that the legislature is taking these steps to ensure public safety and better care for our animals.”

“From our daily experiences at the MSPCA, we know firsthand the strength of the human-animal bond,” added Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “This bill, critical for the safety of both humans and animals, ensures that Massachusetts citizens will not have to choose between their own safety and that of their pets or service animals in a disaster.”

In passing this legislation, Massachusetts joins 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. This legislation also requires local civil defense agencies in cities and towns to include such provisions for animals. The bill standardizes pet evacuation procedures to guarantee that best practices are used state-wide, improving public safety and ensuring pets and service animals receive proper care.

The bill will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

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