27 July 2006

Evacuating with Pets, Update

As I wrote earlier, when I evacuated with my pets due to a fire, I could not find a place to go. The Red Cross refuses to let anyone brings pets to a shelter. Since I like tilting at windmills, I thought I would see what could be done to change the situation.

First thing I did was call the local Red Cross chapter, the Morongo Basin Red Cross Chapter. I was told that pets couldn't be allowed in the shelters because it was the national Red Cross policy. The lady also said it was the job of animal control and the Humane Society to deal with the animals. She also denied that any pets were evacuated on buses during Hurricane Rita last year.

So, the next call was to the national Red Cross, after looking over their website. Their website said that it was state laws and regulations which prohibited allowing animals into shelters. The young lady who answered the phone told me that while the Red Cross people like animals they can't allow animals into the shelters because animals might carry disease, fleas, ticks, etc, and because some people have allergies to pets. When asked about what their website said, i.e., the laws, the young lady couldn't cite which laws they were refering to. Just a note: most of her replies were read from a script and when I asked to talked to someone who could directly answer my questions, I was told that was not possible.

The West Coast Office of the US Humane Society was my next call. There I asked what was their relationship to the Red Cross and what they could do to help the situation. The well informed man told me that they have been working with various chapters of the Red Cross to help with pets. The amount of success varies from state to state, chapter to chapter, with some California locations to be in the forefront and some lagging way behind. Also he told me about the two following pieces of legislation:

H.R. 3858: Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2005 (PETS Act) -- This bill would force authorities to make emergency plans which take into consideration household pets and service dogs. Last week, it passed the US House and now heads to the Senate. It's Senate bill S. 2548, so I hope everyone joins me in writing to their senators supporting this bill.

California Legislature AB 450 -- This piece of legislature would've forced California emergency planners to take into account household pets. California apparently has a program for dealing with animals in emergencies (CARES), but it is not actually a law, so the Office of Emergency Services does not have to follow it. Unfortunately, it was "shelved" by the Senate's Appropriation Committee.

Hopefully, California will wake-up and pass this before the next disaster hits here. I don't want to camp out in my truck with 4 cats and 6 parrots and no potty!!!

No comments: