Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act
The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) was a bi-partisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters. Introduced by Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-California) and Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut) on September 22, 2005, the bill passed the House of Representatives on May 22, 2006 by a margin of 349 to 29. Technically an amendment to the Stafford Act, it was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 6, 2006. The bill is now Public Law 109-308.
The bill was initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the abandonment of many thousands of pets and other animals brought the matter of animal welfare to national attention. The bill's primary proposer, Tom Lantos, indicated that a press picture of a child being separated from his dog was the bill's catalyst; "The dog was taken away from this little boy, and to watch his face was a singularly revealing and tragic experience. This legislation was born at that moment." On the congressional record for the bill, he explained more fully:
"The scene from New Orleans of a 9-year-old little boy crying because he was not allowed to take his little white dog Snowball was too much to bear. Personally, I know I wouldn't have been able to leave my little white dog Masko to a fate of almost certain death. As I watched the images of the heartbreaking choices the gulf residents had to make, I was moved to find a way to prevent this from ever happening again."
The Hurricane Katrina animals
Stories of abandoned pets after Katrina filled the media. The issue raised questions of class concern, as animal welfare activist noted in the Washington Post that some hotels who took in evacuees allowed customers to bring their pets, but those forced to rely on public assistance had no options.
One particular case that garnered widespread attention was that of "Snowball", a small white dog made famous by Associated Press reporter Mary Foster's coverage of the evacuation of the New Orleans Louisiana Superdome. The authorities who assisted evacuees onto buses refused to allow pets to board. Foster reported that "Pets were not allowed on the bus, and when a police officer confiscated a little boy's dog, the child cried until he vomited. 'Snowball, snowball,' he cried."
As a matter of interest, Mary Foster's description of the event was published in the Animal People News website. She describes Snowball as a "mid-size mutt". So the small white poodle known as Snowball was only how people imagined a dog called Snowball would look, and perhaps made it seem more sad. The story is still just as tragic but demonstrates how a story can be changed in the telling.
The story of "Snowball" became a centerpiece in fundraising appeals by welfare organizations and various ad-hoc websites were created by people soliciting funds to help locate Snowball and reunite him with the boy. On September 6, 2005 USA Today reported that Terry Conger, a veterinarian and information officer for the Incident Command Center that coordinated animal rescue efforts in Louisiana, said state veterinary officers had confirmed that Snowball is safe in a Louisiana shelter and that his owner had been located in Texas. However, it appears the veterinarian officials were mistaken. On September 10, 2005 the Lexington Herald-Leader quoted Dr. Conger as saying that original reports of Snowball's recovery were inaccurate and that "the chances of finding it [Snowball] and returning it to its owner are next to nil".
While the bill received wide support, it did have opponents. Two Representatives from the State of Georgia who opposed, Lynn Westmoreland-(R) and Charlie Norwood-(R), announced through spokesmen concerns that the law would unfairly impose federal control over state governance and negatively impact resources from other areas of emergency planning necessary to protect human lives.
- Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act House of Representatives website. September 2005. Accessed August 30, 2007.
- Shays, Christopher. Animal Welfare: Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act House of Representatives website. Accessed August 30, 2007.
- President Bush Signs H.R. 3858, the "Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006" White House (press release). Accessed September 10, 2007.
- H.R.3858 Library of Congress. Accessed August 30, 2007.
- Nolen, R. Scott. October 15, 2005. Katrina's other victims. The Journal of the American Veterinary Association (JAVMA). Accessed August 30, 2005.
- Kemper, Bob. May 23, 2006. Pet-loving Georgians call bill a disaster. Atlanta Journal Constitution. (Reprinted at the House of Representatives site of Congressman Lynn A. Westmoreland). Accessed August 30, 2007.
- Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 Section 51. United States House of Representatives. September 20, 2006. Accessed August 31, 2007.
- see, for example, More and more abandoned pets in New Orleans rescued and Katrina's stranded pets spur massive aid effort.
- Scott, Cathy (2008). Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned. Hoboken: Howell Book House. ISBN 978-0-470-22851-7
- Dawn, Karen. September 10, 2005. Best friends need shelter, too Washington Post. Accessed August 30, 2007.
- Snowball, Snowball, the little dog who broke the nation's heart! September 7, 2005. PR Leap Business News. Accessed August 30, 2007.
- Foster, Mary. September 1, 2005. Superdome Evacuations Enter Second Day Associated Press. Accessed August 30, 2007.
- See, for example, Snowball Fund.
- Manning, Anita. September 6, 2005. Rescuers scramble to reach animals left in dire straits. USA Today. Accessed August 30, 2007.
Irvine, Leslie. 2009. ''Filling the Ark: Animal Welfare in Disasters''. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1-59213-834-0