Information needed on the treatment of service dogs in evacuation plans - update on proposed Pet Evacuation Bill

Dear Green Consciousness: I am contacting you concerning information I have read on your blog and am hoping that you can help me. I am a free lance writer (pro bono) dedicated mainly to domestic animal welfare issues (generally dogs). I am also a strong advocate for service animals and their right to access with their disabled partners.

In addition to the atrocities of watching the pets left behind in Katrina and the needless deaths they caused, I am absolutely livid about the two stories concerning the blind woman and her guide dog "Abu" and another gentleman that was separated from his service dog "Jake" when he was rescued.

I have a letter that I will be e-mailing tomorrow to a list of service animal providers registered with Delta Society ( to gather any information they may have concerning service animals that may have been involved in either Katrina or Rita. My concern is that some of the persons with service animals may not have contacted their providers and with all of the evacuee confusion from Katrina, I don't know if all of the providers have been able to contact or locate their service animal partner/teams.

I believe that I may have found a direct contact to be able to reach someone concerning the service dog, but I am looking for more information on the woman and her guide dog. So far I have only been able to get information from blogs and news reports. Since you had a story on your blog that was more detailed the news reports I have found in print, I was hoping that you could share the source of your information.This is the site of the article on your blog along with the portion of the text on which I am seeking additional information:

Animals and Katrina: What Now? Now they are saying there are packs of wild dogs
hindering repair crews. They will have to shoot them. Yet the "rescuers forced
people to abandon their life companions, at the point of rescue, at the bus, at
the shelter. They even tried to separate a blind woman from her guide dog but
she refused and stayed in her flooded home 6 more days until they came back and
let her evacuate with her dog.
I was researching this topic, because I firmly believe that animals should be sheltered with their human companions and it has been successfully done in the past in Florida. My original plans were to get information to all legislators and also attempt to get as much media coverage as possible in order to garner public support for change.

While I had been researching this topic on Thursday, the AP story hit the wire in the afternoon that Cong. Lantos had sponsored the PETS Act. I wasn't able to get his Press release off his web site until early yesterday. I have not been able to get the text of the act off the GPO site. I get a msg. saying that it takes several days for them to publish new resolutions. I am thrilled that someone wants to pass legislation to force shelters to allow animals, but am concerned on many levels - I don't want to pass judgment, since I haven't read the proposed legislation, but I am afraid that it could just place the burden back on under funded local animal welfare organizations that may not be able to handle the task (either with manpower or monetarily).

More importantly, I have a very real concern of including "service animals" in the same group as "pets." I was able to find about a half page statement on Cong. Shays web site a short while ago and if that is the total content of the legislation, I have severe doubts that it will accomplish what it is intended to do.

You can get to this by going to Cong. Shays web site. This will take you to the Press Release on the subject. Then hit the link under the photo to get to the pdf copy of the act.

There is also a copy of the letter he and Cong. Lantos sent to Sec. Chertoff on Sept. 15. There are numerous web sites that are encouraging people to sign petitions to support this legislation. Until, there is a chance to review the content, I feel it may be more prudent to wait. My concern with what I have seen in writing so far from the congressmen is that says that local and state authorities cannot get FEMA grants unless they make arrangements for these animals in their plans - it doesn't say they have to fund housing/transporting the animals.

Again, I will reserve judgment until I can see what is printed by the Government Printing Office as the full Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act) HR 3858 or until I can get a definitive answer from the congressmen's offices in the next day. Again, per my original request, if you can give me any information on the blind woman and her guide dog I would greatly appreciate whatever you can send my way.

I am hoping to get a direct contact via my letters to the guide dog providers, but sometimes many are hesitant to provide information citing personal privacy laws (even though I am not requesting a name, unless the person and organization is willing to supply it).

Therefore, I am trying to at least find a "detailed, accurate" written news report that I could possibly verify with the reporter. Sorry, if I've gotten a bit verbose with my msg. I can get that way when I'm passionate about something! Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Ms. Marty van Duyne

P.S. Let me know if you're interested and I'll send you a copy of my article when I've finished it - I already sent a commentary out last week. It hasn't been picked up yet, but, as with my article, it has interesting information, including the government's acknowledgment (in writing) of the "pet/human bond" and the devastating affects that can occur during disaster situations. They've known this for years!


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