I’d seen a couple of memes and shared messages floating around Facebook that contained information that was untrue regarding pets in evacuation situations, stating that overnight accommodations such as hotels and motels had to accept your pets and all you had to do was tell them you were evacuating.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, apparently noticed it as well because they set up a page on their site titled “Hurricane Irma Rumor Control” to dispel this and other rumors.
From the page in the “pets” section:
There are reports emergency shelters are required to accommodate pets and service animals belonging to people who have evacuated. This is TRUE. (September 8)
There are also reports hotels are required to accommodate pets for people who have evacuated. This is FALSE. (September 8)
So if you are evacuating to an emergency shelter you can take your pets.
You may also find many hotels that will permit pets generally or in emergencies if you are evacuating but you need to check those ahead of time.
Many places now do accept pets on any given day with some restrictions and fees, and some loosen the restrictions for evacuees. When you set up your emergency plan or just want to find a pet-friendly hotel you can always use a website like Petswelcome.com or GoPetFriendly.com , each of which are linked in many states’ evacuation information.
How standards changed regarding animals and evacuations
Thousands of people refused to evacuate New Orleans and the surrounding area before Hurricane Katrina because they would not leave their pets behind. Pets were not permitted in emergency shelters unless authorities locally decided to allow them in. Many pets who were left behind under evacuation orders perished inside homes and outdoors as well.
That was a turning point in how not only domestic pets but also farm animals and even wildlife are cared for in the face of a disaster, be it hurricane, flood, fire, earthquake or other disaster.
In 2006 Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, PETS, (Pub. L. 109-308) to ensure when evacuation needs to occur that household pets and service animals are rescued and that their essential needs are met with the care and shelter during emergency operations. Following this order each state began to include standards for animals in their emergency plans, and states, counties and even larger cities began to form Animal Response Teams that were active basis for both local emergencies and animal needs as well as on a regional and state level.
Other resources for emergency preparedness
I have several articles on this site that include animal-specific information in natural disasters and other emergencies.
Don’t wait until the last minute, whether it’s a hurricane you are tracking or a chemical spill that necessitates your neighborhood be evacuated on a moment’s notice—make up your emergency plan ahead of time.
And if you’d like to help others and their pets who have been hit by a disaster, here are some tips to give help and donate goods and cash.
And here is hoping you and your pets are safe!
My family in Savannah
My niece and two children, four cats and dog completely prepared to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma, and scheduled to leave Sunday September 10, but Irma decided not to vacation in Savannah and they are at little risk. The mandatory evacuation order was lifted and rather than move all the animals they decided to stay in place. I’m glad they aren’t at risk from this one, but Hurricane Jose is following closely behind. If they have to evacuate for that one, they are all set.
Read more articles about Health and Safety.
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