State lawmakers, animal aid organizations, and animal lovers will meet at the State House this afternoon to celebrate the passage of a bill that benefits pet owners all over The Commonwealth. Senate Bill 1172 An Act Ensuring The Safety Of People With Pets In Disasters was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick back in March. As the title suggests, the bill will help pet owners keep their animals safe in the event of a disaster – But how? What changes will the average pet holder see in their lives?
Previous laws concerning the evacuation and rescue of people during a disaster did not cover the pets of the people being evacuated. Civil defense organizations in the state were not required to include animals in their disaster planning, so they didn’t have the necessary shelter or rescue equipment available to provide animal care. Even service animals were excluded. This left many people to make a heart-wrenching choice: To save their own life or to stay with their pet. Many people understandably chose not to evacuate without their pet, not only putting their life in danger, but the lives of the first responders sent to rescue them.
The passage of Senate Bill 1172 aims to prevent this scenario by amending the existing laws to include not only the needs of people during an emergency, but the needs of their household pets and service animals. A section of the new amendment reads:
“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. The 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.”
Not only will civil defense organizations in Massachusetts be required to plan for rescuing pets along with their people, but they must have a plan for sheltering them as well. Organizations have twelve months to update their emergency operations plans, but if you want to get a head start, the MSPCA website has a great checklist of how to keep your family – furry family included – safe during an emergency.