Austin, TX – May 24, 2018 – Hurricane season officially begins in just a few days, and one statewide organization is urging pet owners to make sure their evacuation plans include a plan for their pets.
The Texas Humane Legislation Network said Texas pet owners, especially those living in hurricane- and flood-prone areas, need to take their pets into account when devising a plan for hurricane season, which begins June 1 and goes through the end of November. Donahue Halloran said her organization is working now to encourage people to be pet prepared. “We can’t let history repeat itself. Pets are family members; they should be treated that way during an emergency, and it doesn’t take a lot of planning to ensure their future safety,” she added.
THLN is asking pet owners to consider implementing a few simple steps to make sure their pets are part of their family’s emergency plan, including:
1. Making sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.
2. Microchipping your pet(s) – or updating information if you have moved or changed phone numbers since they were microchipped — is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
3. Get a portable pet carrier or crate, and help your dog or cat get comfortable in it.
4. Know where you will go, how you will get there, and if your pet will be able to go with you.
5. Prepare a small travel bag with essentials, including food for several days and any medications and an extra leash.
In 2007, THLN helped pass “Simba’s Law” in Texas, which directed local emergency management authorities to establish Animal Issues Committees through the Texas Animal Health Commission. THLN advises Texas residents to contact their local county commissioner’s office to find out whether their county has taken appropriate steps to accommodate companion and service animals during emergencies.
Many people lost their lives during Hurricane Katrina because they refused to evacuate without their pets. Rescue crews and shelters like the Superdome refused to take the animals, so they were either abandoned or suffered the same fate as their owners.
There were no real laws or policies on what to do with the animals, and many rescuers probably felt that their hands were tied. Nearly half of the people who stayed behind did so because of their pets.
“It’s hard to look back at that animal and be like, ‘I understand that you rely 100 percent on me for everything, but you’re going to stay here, and I’m gonna go, so at this point this is where our relationship ends,’” said Eric Durcinka of the Louisiana SPCA.
“It’s kind of like you give up, and just say, ‘I’m not going to worry about you right now.’ And it’s like I say, people don’t fault people for that – it’s understandable – but you can’t then fault the person that says, ‘I can’t do that.’”
“For them, the mindset was, ‘Well, of course I’m not going to leave these animals behind; I would never leave a member of my family, I would never leave my best friend behind. You can’t possibly expect me to leave one of my pets behind,’” said David Grimm, Editor of Science Magazine.
Laws have since been passed making it mandatory for rescuers to save pets during evacuations.
“We demanded the first pet evacuation bill in the country – it was passed here in Louisiana – and then of course it became a federal bill,” said Ginnie Baumann of Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO).
“Louisiana passed a Pet Evacuation Act, which basically mandated that rescuers of future natural disasters take pets into account – that pets be evacuated with people, that shelters accept pets,” Grimes explained.
Since then, 30 states (and Washington DC) have adopted their own versions of the Pet Act.