The PETS Act, which went into effect in October 2006, requires state and local emergency preparedness plans to take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals before, during and after a disaster. It also makes federal funding available, at the discretion of the director of FEMA, for the implementation of these state and local plans.
States that have already gotten on board and passed laws mandating the creation of animal-related disaster and evacuation plans include CA, CT, FL, HI, IL, LA, NH, NM, NV, NY, OR, TX, VA and VT.
To find out what your state is doing to put plans in place for animals in disasters, first contact your state government's emergency management agency (it's like your state's own version of FEMA—every state has one). In New York State, this agency is called the State Emergency Management Office. It might have a slightly different name where you live, but a basic Internet search (your state + "emergency management") can help you quickly identify your state's counterpart. This agency should be able to tell you all you need to know about the progress of your state's emergency planning.
If you discover that your state has not yet implemented any plans—or has not made plans to make a plan, as often happens—then it's time to take action. Contact your state legislators (your local representatives in your state's governing body) to urge them to introduce legislation similar to the bills passed by the states listed above. To learn more about how to work with your legislators on behalf of animals, please read our column on conducting a successful meeting with your legislator and visit our Lobbying 101 section.
Lastly, don't forget to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade! When you sign up to receive email alerts from us, we will be able to let you know when this kind of legislation is introduced in your area. It's free and easy.