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 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters.[1] Introduced by Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-California) and Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut) on September 22, 2005, the bill passed the House of Representatives on May 22, 2006, by a margin of 349 to 29.[2] Technically an amendment to the Stafford Act, it was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 6, 2006.[3] The bill is now Public Law 109-308.[4]



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.[5] In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration conducted a review of public relief efforts and where the infrastructure in place at the time failed.[6] The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Act served as an amendment to section 403 of Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. which had been in place since November 23, 1988 with no previous amendments. PETS was put in place to ensure that upon major disaster or emergency, FEMA has authorization to give shelter and care to people with service animals as well as household pets. Two other documents were involved in the activation of the PETS Act. These documents were Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act and National Response Framework.[7] The PKERA made FEMA the sole agency responsible for national emergency response, while the National Response Framework was used to identify how the national government, along with communities and states would execute well coordinated national responses to disasters and emergencies. PERKA was signed into law August 3, 2006. National Response Framework amendments were finished October 4, 2006. To determine when the PETS Act would be activated, FEMA developed a policy titled Eligible Costs Related to Pet Evacuations and Sheltering. This policy operationally defined the terms household pet, service animal, and congregate household pet shelter. The policy states that only local and state governments are eligible to participate in the rescue and shelter of pets for reimbursement.[8] The policy also states that private nonprofit groups can not be reimbursed directly. 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."[9] 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.[10]

Hurricane Katrina animals


Stories of abandoned pets after Katrina filled the media.[11][12] 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.[13]

One particular case that garnered widespread attention was that of "Snowball", a small white dog made famous by Associated Press' coverage of the evacuation of the New Orleans Louisiana Superdome. 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."[14]

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.[14] On September 6, 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.[15] However, it appears the veterinarian officials were mistaken. On September 10, 2005, the Lexington Herald-Leader quoted 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".[citation needed]



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.[16]

See also



  1. ^ "Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act]" (PDF). Office of Christopher Shays. September 2005. Retrieved August 30, 2007. Pets that are NOT Service animals, must still follow the laws regarding service animals during a disaster.
  2. ^ Shays, Christopher. "Animal Welfare: Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act". Office of Christopher Shays. Archived from the original on October 12, 2006. Retrieved August 30, 2007.
  3. ^ "President Bush Signs H.R. 3858, the 'Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006'" (Press release). White House. Retrieved September 10, 2007.
  4. ^ "H.R.3858". Library of Congress. Retrieved August 30, 2007.
  5. ^ Nolan, R. Scott (October 15, 2005). "Katrina's other victims". Journal of the American Veterinary Association. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved August 30, 2005.
  6. ^ "Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned - Chapter Five: Lessons Learned".
  7. ^ "Background of PETS Act" (PDF). Retrieved December 24, 2022.
  8. ^ "History of PETS Act" (PDF). Retrieved December 24, 2022.
  9. ^ "House Passes Pet Evacuation Bill". CBS News. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  10. ^ "Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 Section 51". GovTrack. September 20, 2006. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2007.
  11. ^ "More and more abandoned pets in New Orleans rescued". ABC News.
    "Katrina's stranded pets spur massive aid effort". National Geographic News.
  12. ^ Scott, Cathy (2008). Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned. Hoboken, NJ: Howell Book House. ISBN 978-0-470-22851-7.
  13. ^ Dawn, Karen (September 10, 2005). "Best friends need shelter, too". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 30, 2007.
  14. ^ a b Associated Press (September 6, 2005). "Sad story of little boy and his dog grips U.S."
  15. ^ Manning, Anita (September 6, 2005). "Rescuers scramble to reach animals left in dire straits". USA Today. Retrieved August 30, 2007.
  16. ^ Kemper, Bob (May 23, 2006), "Pet-loving Georgians call bill a disaster", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, archived from the original on July 25, 2007, retrieved August 30, 2007 – via Office of Lynn A. Westmoreland

[1] [2] [3] [4]

Further reading


Irvine, Leslie. 2009. Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1-59213-834-0

  1. ^ "Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  2. ^ [Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act "Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act"]. Retrieved April 7, 2019. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  3. ^ "National Resppnse Framework". Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  4. ^ "Emergency Planning for Household Pets and Service Animals" (PDF). Retrieved April 7, 2019.