What led to the development of the PETS Act:
Our current system for homeland security does not provide the necessary framework to manage the challenges posed by 21st Century catastrophic threats. But to be clear, it is unrealistic to think that even the strongest framework can perfectly anticipate and overcome all challenges in a crisis. While we have built a response system that ably handles the demands of a typical hurricane season, wildfires, and other limited natural and man-made disasters, the system clearly has structural flaws for addressing catastrophic events. During the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina, four critical flaws in our national preparedness became evident: Our processes for unified management of the national response; command and control structures within the Federal government; knowledge of our preparedness plans; and regional planning and coordination….”

The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned, The White House http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/reports/katrina-lessons-learned/chapter5.html The White House, in response to Hurricane Katrina, directed a review of lessons learned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In that assessment, it was recommended that DHS require State and local governments, to develop, implement, and exercise emergency response plans and to be integrated with all Federal evacuation activities, before State and local governments are able to receive DHS-funded grants.
Specifically, the assessment stated that “state and local evacuation plans should specify procedures to address the pre-positioning of food, medical and fuel supplies. These plans should address establishing first-aid stations, tracking and coordinating movements of evacuees, evacuating pets, unaccompanied minors, the elderly, and evacuating people who lack the means to leave voluntarily.”

In the fall of 2006, Congress passed H.R. 3858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (PETS Act). On Friday, October 6, 2006, President Bush signed the PETS Act into law.

What does the PETS Act do:
The PETS Act amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that State and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency. The PETS Act authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency.For DHS and its agency that oversees emergency response – the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – to implement the PETS Act effectively, two other documents support FEMA’s activities to ensure optimal preparedness and response associated with companion animals:

Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA):
PKEMRA codifies and expands FEMA’s regional office structure and strengthens its all-hazards operational framework and coordination capabilities. It expanded the federal role in emergency response by designating FEMA as the sole primary agency, and it added additional authorities and responsibilities for FEMA to, among other actions, ensure pet rescue and shelter. In an emergency wherein the federal government will assist a state, FEMA will procure support from federal partner agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the American Red Cross partners.

National Response Framework (NRF):
The NRF is a document that establishes a comprehensive, national, all-hazards approach to emergency response. It identifies the key response principles, roles and structures that organize national response. It describes how communities, States, the Federal Government and private-sector and nongovernmental partners apply key response principles for a coordinated and effective nationwide response.

While the PETS Act was a catalyst for implementation of preparedness plans at the state and local levels of government, it takes all three documents (PETS Act, PKEMRA, and the NRF) for a truly effective and comprehensive response.

Links with more detailed information regarding the PETS Act:

Yes, Evacuation Centers and Hotels Can Turn Away Pets During a Disaster:
You probably saw — and were probably upset by — the photo of the heartbroken woman who was turned away from the temporary shelter at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center during Hurricane Harvey because she had her dog with her. That woman and dozens of others who evacuated with their dogs and cats were told that animal services were not available, so they could not bring their pets inside. Not about to abandon their beloved pets, all those people sat outside the convention center with them, barely sheltered from the storm.

And perhaps you heard about Gillian Parker and her family, who stayed inside their car with their three large dogs in a Holiday Inn Express parking lot after the hotel refused to budge on its no-pets policy during the hurricane. “I’m just chagrined, irritated, cold, wet, tired and exhausted,” Parker told People.
(Editor’s note: Holiday Inn Express responded to the Care2 petition on this matter by ensuring that pets would not be turned away at hotels in areas impacted by the hurricane and offering to waive the family’s fee.)

Like many other people on social media, I was appalled that these pet owners were turned away from a shelter and hotel, especially after what happened during Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago. During that disaster, an estimated 250,000 dogs and cats were displaced or died, according to the ASPCA. In some cases, their owners who refused to leave them behind also died. In a 2006 poll, 44 percent of the people who chose not to evacuate said they made the decision because they refused to abandon their pets. To prevent such a horrible tragedy from ever happening again during a disaster, legislation including the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was passed. This law, enacted in 2006, requires state and local emergency preparedness operational plans to address the needs of the owners of companion and service animals following a major disaster or emergency. So, thanks to the PETS Act, wasn’t it illegal for the Houston convention center and Holiday Inn to turn away evacuee’s pets? The answer, surprisingly, is no. While the law’s required emergency preparedness operational plans do include “emergency shelter facilities and materials that will accommodate people with pets and service animals,” evacuation centers aren’t required to allow pets along with people. The pets are cared for in those emergency shelter facilities by the staff from local animal shelters. In Houston, BARC, the city’s animal shelter, set up a trailer outside another no-pets evacuation center so pets could at least be close to, if not next to, their owners.

Fortunately, many evacuation centers do allow evacuees to keep their pets with them. Within a day, the George R. Brown Convention Center set up a designated area for pets. Less than two weeks later, when Hurricane Irma devastated Florida, shelters in several counties welcomed two-legged as well as four-legged evacuees.

Avoid being separated from your pet during a disaster:
It’s important for pet owners to be prepared for disasters and other emergencies, no matter where you live. If you don’t want to be separated from your pet during a disaster, check your county’s emergency management office, local animal shelter and your city’s social media for the locations of evacuation centers that allow pets. Before a disaster strikes, it’s also a good idea to be aware of pet-friendly hotels in your area.

The ASPCA also recommends doing the following:
–  Prepare an emergency kit that includes a pet carrier (with your pet’s name, your name and your phone number written on it), canned food, bowls, bottled water, first-aid items, garbage bags and blankets.
–  Be sure your pet is microchipped and your contact information is up to date.
–  Your pet’s ID tag should include his name, any urgent medical needs and your phone number.
–  Keep current photos of your pet with you.
–  I know this goes without saying, but if at all possible, never, ever evacuate without your pets!