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Companion Animals and Natural Disasters : The U.S. Experience. Marsha L. Baum Professor of Law University of New Mexico January 2009. Humans Have Greater Value?. Law places greater value on humans Models for Animal Welfare Intrinsic value Human-Animal Binary

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Companion Animals and Natural Disasters: The U.S. Experience

Marsha L. Baum

Professor of Law

University of New Mexico

January 2009


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Humans Have Greater Value?

  • Law places greater value on humans

  • Models for Animal Welfare

    • Intrinsic value

    • Human-Animal Binary

    • Weighing the Harm (Simone Watson)

    • Companion Animals v. Other Non-human Animals

      • Treat all non-human animals the same (Siobhan O’Sullivan)


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Legal Status of Non-Human Animals in the U.S.

  • Property or Person?

    • Standing (Northern Spotted Owl v. Lujan)

    • Court recognition of feelings human can develop for animal companion in tort actions - intangible value

    • Ward to human guardian – some municipalities have adopted this language

    • Predominant position is homocentric and property driven – non-human animals valued for value to human animals (homocentric) rather than for intrinsic value of non-human animals (biocentric)


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Legal Treatment of AnimalsPre-Katrina

  • No federal statutes regarding animal evacuation

  • Laws and regulations dealing with handling of carcasses and biohazard and dealing with disease

  • SART model – developed in NC in 1999 – public/private partnership at the state level

  • No animals in shelters or on evacuation transportation

    • CDC report of potential health risks

    • Prohibited by state health and safety regulations

  • Prohibitions on transport of animals out of state

    • Affected states prohibited transport of animals out of state

    • After prohibitions were lifted, some states would not take animals from the disaster area

      • Massachusetts refused to host animals for fear of diseases such as heartworm


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Companion Animals and Their People

  • Population of companion animals in the United States (from APPMA 2005/06 survey)

    • Cats – 90.5 million (34% of households)

    • Dogs – 73.9 million (39% of households)

    • Birds – 16.6 million, Reptiles - 11 million, Small animals – 18.2 million


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Bond between Humans and Non-Human Animals

  • 74% of dog owners, 60% of cat owners, and 45% of bird owners consider their companion animals children or family members

  • Psychological impact of loss


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PETS Act

  • Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006

    • First federal legislation to address evacuation of companion animals and service animals

    • State and local emergency preparedness plans must “take into account” the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals

    • Amended the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act


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Created new section (g) of 42 U.S.C. § 5196b

``(g) Standards for State and Local Emergency Preparedness Operational Plans.--In approving standards for State and local emergency preparedness operational plans pursuant to subsection (b)(3), the Director shall ensure that such plans take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.''


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Senate amendment provided funding opportunities

``(2) The Director may make financial contributions, on the basis of programs or projects approved by the Director, to the States and local authorities for animal emergency preparedness purposes, including the procurement, construction, leasing, or renovating of emergency shelter facilities and materials that will accommodate people with pets and service animals.''


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Essential Assistance to Include Household Pets and Service Animals

Amended Section 403(a)(3) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5170b(a)(3)):

PROVIDING ESSENTIAL ASSISTANCE TO INDIVIDUALS WITH HOUSEHOLD PETS AND SERVICE ANIMALS FOLLOWING A DISASTER. Federal agencies may on the direction of the President, provide assistance essential to meeting immediate threats to life and property resulting from a major disaster, as follows:(J) provision of rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs-- (i) to individuals with household pets and service animals; and (ii) to such pets and animals.


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Remarks by Rep. Dennis Kucinich Animals

Among the injustices incurred in the gulf coast were citizens forced to choose between their own safety and that of their pet or service animals. And the example that Mr. Lantos gave of the 9-year-old boy who had to part with his beloved dog is an example of the heartbreak that all of us can relate to.

Some chose to compromise their own safety, unwilling to evacuate without their pet, despite the great risk to themselves and their families. Others were forced to leave these important friends behind, abandoned and alone. Animals were left to survive on their own with little hope of survival, causing the very understandable human emotions of pain and agony that accompanied this choice.

Some, dependent upon a service animal for their own safety and survival, were made to leave their companions behind, a direct threat to their own security.


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FEMA Regulations Animals

Necessary expense means the cost associated with acquiring an item or items, obtaining a service, or paying for any other activity that meets a serious need. 44 C.F.R. § 206.111


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FEMA Disaster Assistance Policy 9523.19 Animals

Eligible Costs Related to Pet Evacuation and Sheltering (10/24/2007)

Expenses related to state and local government emergency pet evacuation and sheltering

Defines household pet, service animal, and congregate household pet shelters

Eligible for reimbursement only as long as pet owner is in §403 emergency sheltering

Included cataloging/tracking system as eligible cost


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Definition household pet Animals

  • See attached FEMA Disaster Assistance Policy.


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FEMA Disaster Assistance Policies Animals

A comparison – research animals v. companion animals (DAP 9525.16 v. 9523.19)

Individual eligible facilities (zoos, research facilities, taxidermy collections at museums) can recover costs for actions to save animals and protect property v. only governmental entities can be reimbursed for evacuation and sheltering activities


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State Action Post-Katrina Animals

  • States are passing legislation requiring inclusion of animals in state disaster plans

    • E.g., Louisiana included animals in its disaster act in 2006 amendment

  • Overall emphasis on public education and personal responsibility for planning evacuation of pets

    • May not be able to get back to animals if leave them

    • Economic status element – personal pet disaster plan recommended – e.g., go to pet friendly hotel


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Animal Welfare Act Rationale – AnimalsAnalogous to PETS Act?

  • Right obtained under AWA is the right to have animal interests balanced against human interests

  • Generally human must have direct connection to event to have standing to bring suit

  • Rationale for PETS Act – “Take into account needs of individuals with household pets and service animals” – Louisiana Plan includes right of humans to take companion animals with them in evacuation only if no danger to other humans – animal no interest on its own behalf


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Does the legislation change the situation for the animals? Animals

  • Language

    • “Wherever possible”

    • “Without endangering human life”

    • “Take into account” in plans

    • “Household pets”

  • No consequences for failure to implement plans

    • FEMA funding dependent on state plan but not on implementation of plan

    • Possible penalties at state level? Fines? Liability for failure to act?

  • Debate included assurances that no funds would be taken from human rescue to implement


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Likely Results? Animals

  • Rescuers refuse to allow people to take pets

    • Evacuees with horse trailers turned away because of narrow road (wild fire in California June 2007)

  • Take pet with you but when get to transport with carrier are told no room

  • Shelters refuse to accept non-human animals including service animals for hygiene and public health reasons


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Conclusion Animals

  • Legislation recognizes human interest in companion animals and need to evacuate animals to save humans – continues animals as property paradigm

  • Unclear impact legislation will have in face of disaster – requires education of rescuers and victims, animal advocates being included in emergency planning

  • Focus on personal responsibility and need to find pet-friendly shelter has impact for those of lower socio-economic status – requires funding sources

  • Recognition of intrinsic value of animals and animal self-interest in preservation needed to give substance to “plans” or alternatively to place consequences on failure to act – both go against existing legal model of animals as property


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