Sponsor: Senator Karen Spilka
Update: This bill passed the Senate on 10/10/13; it is pending in House Ways & Means.
Why is this bill needed?
During a disaster or emergency requiring evacuation of our state's citizens, "failure to evacuate" becomes a critical public safety issue. Events of recent years, and a growing body of scientific literature, support this view and define the reasons for the resistance of citizens to voluntarily evacuate. Most frequently cited among these reasons, is the fact citizens will not evacuate without being assured that their animals will be safe. In the past, essentially no provisions were made for animals to evacuate with their owners and animal owners were directed to leave their animals behind. Many chose to stay behind with their animals, endangering both themselves and first responders. With more than half of Mass. households having pets, this can be a significant number of people. We have seen this happen during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and most recently during Superstorm Sandy, as well as in other large-scale disasters. History has demonstrated that those who do leave their animals behind most frequently suffer tragic consequences, compounding the emotional toll on already distressed disaster victims.
What would this bill do?
· improve public safety; we keep people safe by keeping their animals safe
· require emergency plans to address household pets and service animals before, during and after an emergency or disaster (including evacuation and sheltering)
· address the needs of displaced citizens with household pets during disasters helps to mitigate the public health issue of evacuation failure related to animal ownership
The bill simply amends Section 1 and 13 of Special Law Chapter S31 to include in the definition of “civil defense” the evacuation of household pets and service animals and to require each political subdivision of the Commonwealth that establishes a local organization for civil defense in accordance with the state civil defense plan and program to ensure that 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. Such 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.
photo courtesy of smartma.org