Animal Writes
21 February 2001 Issue
HSUS and FEMA Sign Historic Agreement

from - "L. French" - [email protected] 

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have signed an historic agreement through FEMA's Project Impact to assist communities and individuals to include animals in their disaster and evacuation plans. This initiative will include cats, dogs, and other companion animals as well as horses and livestock.

While animals have held a place in disaster planning for several years, the recent FEMA/HSUS partnership will bring critical national attention to the importance of protecting pets during times of natural and man-made disasters.

More than 60% of America's households include pets: a fact which underscores the need for advanced disaster-related planning. HSUS will continue to work in cooperation with FEMA and other organizations to promote the incorporation of pets into individual and community disaster planning initiatives.

Through their experience across the country, HSUS Disaster Teams have found that strengthening the local response through emergency planning and education is the best way to meet a community's needs during times of disaster. HSUS will develop educational and partnership programs to encourage local disaster preparedness and include the well-being of pets within the community in disaster plans.

"The primary reason people choose not to evacuate their homes when asked to do so by emergency management is because they feel they cannot take their pets," stated Melissa Seide Rubin, HSUS Director of Disaster and Field Services. "With this initiative, we will work with emergency management agencies to create disaster plans that will include pets and assist in developing guidelines for evacuation, options for animal sheltering, and expanding our teams of volunteers to assist in disaster response across the country."

In addition to working with emergency management agencies on local disaster preparedness plans, HSUS is expanding animal disaster education programs for volunteers and emergency management personnel. HSUS is in the process of developing courses to train individuals and community groups in
areas such as animal search and rescue, emergency animal sheltering, swift-water rescue, first aid, and animal handling skills.

To strengthen the network of disaster resources within a community, HSUS will promote liaisons between community organizations, veterinary staff, pet owners, and emergency management agencies to provide crucial elements of disaster preparedness such as safe areas to shelter pets and identifying
sources of animal rescue equipment and personnel trained in animal rescue in the case of a potential disaster. HSUS will work with pet and animal publications and associations to educate pet owners about the elements and the importance of disaster planning and preparedness for their animals.

"It is important for people to understand that disasters occur more frequently than just hurricanes and earthquakes. Disasters can strike in the form of hazardous materials spills, train derailments, and house fires. Pet owners need to be prepared," explained Rubin. "It is our goal to provide outlets for
the pet-owning public to access useful emergency planning information and partnership links so they can be better prepared to provide proper care for their pets in disaster situations."

Lisa Munniksma at The Trueman Communications Group

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