Disaster bill filed in state legislature — ask your legislators to co-sponsor

Last Friday, State Senator Karen Spilka filed a bill called An Act ensuring the safety of people with pets in disasters, currently Senate Docket 1101.

State senators and state representatives have until next Friday to co-sponsor this bill. Please contact your legislators to ask them to co-sponsor SD 1101. If you do not know who your state legislators are, you can find out at www.wheredoivotema.com and look for “Rep and Senator in General Court”.

What would this bill do?
• improve public safety; we keep people safe by keeping their animals safe
• require emergency plans to address household pets and service animals before, during and after an emergency or disaster (including evacuation and sheltering)
• address the needs of displaced citizens with household pets during disasters, which helps to mitigate the public health issue of evacuation failure related to animal ownership

The bill simply amends Section 1 and 13 of Special Law Chapter S31 to include in the definition of “civil defense” the evacuation of household pets and service animals and to require each political subdivision of the commonwealth who establishes a local organization for civil defense in accordance with the state civil defense plan and program to ensure that any emergency plan of operations shall include strategies to support the needs of people with household pets and the needs of household pets under their care, including service animals. Such local organization for civil defense shall take appropriate steps to educate the public regarding the resources available in the event of an emergency and the importance of emergency preparedness planning.

As you know, at the Federal level, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act requires states accepting federal funding for homeland security preparedness under the Stafford Act to provide for animals in their state-level disaster plans and planning. The Federal law, however, does not address the other levels of government where local decisions are made. If the local civil defense agencies do not include provisions for animals, there will be nothing for the Federal government to reimburse and this important public safety issue – failure to evacuate and shelter – will remain a barrier to a more orderly, safe and effective evacuation to the benefit of all our citizens. Many other states, including Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and North Carolina have already passed state legislation to accomplish this goal.