By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
A new federal rule will ensure facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act take the time and care to put animal welfare first in disaster and emergency situations. Anthony Rathbun / HSUS via AP Images
Disasters and other emergencies can disrupt the lives of everyone, human and animal. That’s why we’re celebrating great progress for animals now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will implement long overdue requirements for contingency planning and disaster preparedness for animals in regulated breeding, exhibition and research facilities covered by the Animal Welfare Act.
The USDA rule, which was just released this week and will take effect on January 3, 2022, is the culmination of our decade-long campaign to expand the protections provided by the enactment of the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards. Act in 2006. The measure created a federal mandate for animal disaster preparedness planning on the part of all agencies seeking federal disaster funds. But for those of us who worked for the passage of the PETS law, there was still a sense of the unfinished business. The agency’s decision to now lift a suspension of a December 2012 rule requiring such plans fulfills the promise we made over a decade ago to offer similar consideration for animals in institutions regulated by AWA, and we couldn’t be happier.
We emphasize that Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast states in 2005, exposing the practical and moral failure of disaster planning in the United States with respect to animals. We did this with the deep belief that not only pets, but all animals endangered in disasters and emergencies should be considered in preparedness and response planning. We believe that, just like our local, state and federal agencies focused on disaster response, regulated businesses that keep animals have a fundamental public responsibility to develop and implement emergency preparedness plans. Among other obligations, these facilities must be able to continue to provide adequate food, water, shelter, sanitation and veterinary care for animals in the event of an emergency, especially if damage or other obstructions make it difficult access or entry by the guards.
Under the new rule, facilities such as puppy mills, roadside zoos and other operations that keep regulated animals will be asked to identify the types of emergencies common in their areas and establish a chain. clear command lines for employees, as well as taking steps to train employees on animal care strategies and procedures in such cases.
The new USDA rule will ensure regulated companies take the time and care to put animal welfare first in disaster and emergency situations, and we believe that’s a reasonable request to make. to entities that operate with the confidence of the public. The contingency planning required just makes sense, for reasons of public safety and effective recovery. But it is also true that when it comes to animals, there must be a shared responsibility for their welfare and safety. In this sense, the disaster rule is a decisive marker of our government’s commitment to enshrine the public’s concern for animals in its laws and practices.
Sara Amundson is President of the Legislative Fund of The Humane Society.
Here is our previous coverage of this issue:
Animals also deserve disaster preparedness plans. Here is how you can help.
The past few years have shown how suddenly natural disasters and other emergencies can turn our lives upside down. Take, for example, the recent severe hurricanes and the wildfires, the deep freeze in early 2021 in Texas or the current global Covid-19 crisis. Families all over the world have seen how crucial it is to have emergency plans in place for their loved ones.
Animal lovers have always recognized that not only humans need disaster preparedness plans, and in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina the rest of society understood. Less than a year after this disaster, Congress passed the PETS Act, requiring state and local response agencies receiving federal funds to institute emergency preparedness plans that take into account the needs of pets. company.
Unfortunately, more than fifteen years after Katrina, there is still no federal requirement for establishments regulated by the Animal Welfare Act to have such plans in place for the animals in their care. The increasing frequency and intensity of weather events due to climate change make the need even more urgent. In the event of a disaster, anything can happen to the animals in these facilities. When Hurricane Michael hit Florida in October 2018, two ZooWorld big cats died from the storm. The year before, during Hurricane Irma, two great kudu from another zoo died. When Hurricane Katrina hit an aquarium on the Gulf Coast, eight dolphins, 19 sea lions and a seal had to weather the storm on their own. Six sea lions died and the seal was gone forever.
The animal care centers run by the HSUS have long had emergency plans in place – it’s just the responsible thing to do. We’ve been pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture for years to require facilities regulated by animal welfare law to have disaster plans, and today the agency has taken a critical step toward getting there. .
This comes after years of delay. In 2012, the USDA finalized regulations requiring all facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, such as research facilities, puppy and kitten factories, and roadside zoos, have plans. emergency response by the end of July 2013 for the animals in their care in the event of a disaster. But just two days after the facilities were supposed to have their plans in place, the agency abruptly decided to “stay” the rule, indefinitely delaying its implementation.
We have never stopped pushing for this common sense reform. We have raised the issue repeatedly with USDA officials, while working closely with allies in Congress on parallel tracks. We worked with the House Agriculture Committee to get a provision in the 2014 Farm Bill encouraging the agency to reinstate the rule, but the agency ignored the request. We strongly support the PREPARED Act (Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters), led by Representatives Dina Titus, D-Nev., And Rodney Davis, R-Ill. And thankfully, thanks to the leadership of the Chairman of the House Agriculture Credit Subcommittee, Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. â who answered calls from Representative Titus and a bipartisan set of 207 Representatives and 41 Senators– the omnibus credit package promulgated in December 2020 set a timeline for the USDA to review the effects of postponing its 2012 rule and consider implementing a disaster plan requirement for all entities governed by the animal protection law. Today, the USDA followed this statutory directive by announcing a new rule proposal. This first step could result in the requirement of animal disaster plans at these facilities with regard to natural and human disaster situations. From now on, the public will have to take action to show support for this rule.
With this proposal, the USDA is demonstrating that it also understands what animal advocates have long known, that animal-related disaster preparedness is good for everyone – animals, society, and regulated businesses. We commend Secretary Vilsack for his drive to push this rule forward, and it doesn’t come too soon. Any further delay in this contingency planning requirement – as the threat of hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, tornadoes, pandemics and other disasters increases – exposes animals in facilities regulated by the ‘AWA at an increased risk of injury, suffering and death. (Unfortunately, because farm animals are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act, animals belonging to large-scale agriculture, including the meat industry, will not be included in the rule. We must give priority to another avenue to help these deserving animals.)
Now we need your help to bring this promising step forward for the animals to the finish line. Promoting disaster preparedness for facilities that keep animals for business or scientific reasons is an appropriate role for the USDA as a regulatory agency, and we hope you will join us in urging the government to quickly lift the suspension of this rule and get it back on track.
Sara Amundson is President of the Legislative Fund of The Humane Society.
Public policy (legal / legislative)