COURTESY OF ELIZABETH CAMPBELL
Waianae resident Elizabeth Campbell, shown rescuing a dog in New Orleans last year following Hurricane Katrina, calls a new law requiring emergency shelter accommodations for pets "fabulous."
Officials explore pet options in crises
State and county Civil Defense officials were already exploring ways to accommodate pets in emergency shelters when President Bush signed a law making that a requirement to qualify for federal emergency money.
"I think it's fabulous," said Waianae resident Elizabeth Campbell, who went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last year to help rescue hundreds of pets left behind by their evacuated owners.
The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 that Bush signed Friday:
» Requires local and state emergency preparedness authorities to include pets and service animals in their disaster plans to qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.
» Gives FEMA the authority to assist states and local communities develop disaster plans to accommodate people with pets and service animals.
» Authorizes federal funds to help create pet-friendly emergency shelter facilities.
» Allows FEMA to provide assistance for people with pets and service animals, and the animals, following a major disaster.
Emergency shelters in Hawaii already allow service animals, said Ray Lovell, state Civil Defense spokesman.
Many of the facilities that double as shelters don't allow animals for health reasons, said Maria Lutz, American Red Cross disaster services director. Some people are allergic to pet fur and dander, she said.
The Red Cross operates emergency shelters in the state. If people showed up with pets, they had to leave the animals in their cars.
Following Katrina, officials from the state and county civil defense agencies, the humane societies and the Red Cross got together to discuss ideas for pet-friendly emergency evacuations.
They're working on including an animal response team in state emergency response plans, said Darcie Scharfenstein, Hawaiian Humane Society spokeswoman.
In May, Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law legislation requiring her to adopt rules for emergency shelters that can accommodate pets. It directs the state Civil Defense director to identify suitable facilities, both public and private.
As many as 50,000 pets were stranded during Katrina because pets weren't allowed in emergency shelters. And some people who refused to abandon their pets perished in the flood waters.
Campbell said pet owners will not have to chose between their pets and evacuation if pets are included in emergency plans. And it will cut down on the number of animal rescuers needed after a disaster.