Don't leave isle pets out of rescue plans
Civil Defense officials are exploring ways to accommodate pets in evacuation plans.
ONE OF THE many flaws in responding to Hurricane Katrina a year ago was an evacuation policy that resulted in the stranding of thousands of pets. A new law should eliminate that problem by requiring all local and state agencies to include pets in their evacuation plans in emergencies, and Hawaii already has moved in that direction
By some estimates, as many as 600,000 animals were stranded in Mississippi and Louisiana after Katrina struck. Undoubtedly, some people died by staying with their pets rather than abandoning them to abide by evacuation rules. According to a Zogby International Poll following Katrina, 61 percent of pet owners said they would not evacuate without their pets.
In Hawaii and elsewhere, pets are not allowed in hurricane shelters for health reasons, although 358 million pets reside in 63 percent of American households, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
A state law that took effect in May requires the Lingle administration to adopt rules for emergency shelters, and pets are included in the emergency plans. That inclusion complies with the new Pets and Transportation Standards Act, which requires that pets and service animals be included in such plans in order for the county or state to qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.
Hawaii is among seven states that have enacted bills to include pets in their evacuation plans, the Humane Society reported in August. The new federal law should result in such plans in all other states, with or without state legislation.
Darcie Scharfenstein of the Hawaiian Humane Society says state and county civil defense officials, the Humane Society and the Red Cross have begun to discuss ideas for pet-friendly emergency evacuations.
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