Time to push for a stronger Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act) HR 3858

Ms. Marty van Duyne wrote me on 9/26/05

....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. http://www.house.gov/shays/news/2005/September/septpet.htm

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.

Lantos, Shays Seek Increased Protection of Pet Owners, Pets During Emergencies

Washington, DC – Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), Co-Chairs of the Friends of Animals Caucus, today introduced legislation to ensure that in any future disaster, federal officials will not separate people from their household pets and service animals such as seeing-eye dogs, as they did in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act) requires local and state emergency preparedness authorities to include in their evacuation plans how they will accommodate household pets or service animals in case of a disaster. Local and state authorities must submit these plans in order to qualify for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama brought unbelievable images into American homes every night,” Lantos said. “The losses of life and property were simply staggering. And on top of all that, the sight of evacuees choosing between being rescued or remaining with their pets, perhaps even having to leave behind the trained and faithful helping animals that some people with disabilities rely on every day, was just heartbreaking. Our legislation will put an end to that.”

Shays said, “Katrina taught us the hard lesson that, as we prepare for future emergencies, it’s important we include in our plans ways to protect our pet owners and their pets. The common-sense bill we will introduce today requires state and local preparedness groups to include in their protocols plans for evacuation of pet owners, pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster so that owners don’t have to make a choice between their personal safety and their pets’ safety.”

At a news conference announcing the bill, officials from the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Doris Day Animal League and the Best Friends Animal Society emphasized their support for this initiative.

Shays is Vice-Chair of the Government Reform Committee, Chairman of its Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations and sits on the Homeland Security Committee. He returned from the first trip of members of the U.S. House of Representatives to New Orleans and Mississippi on Sunday and was chosen to sit on the Select Bipartisan Committee investigating the initial relief response to Hurricane Katrina.

Contact: Sarah Moore, 202/225-5541
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BELOW INFO FROM ONGRESSMAN'S SHAYES WEBSITE.

DOES YOUR CONGRESSMAN HAVE A PAGE DEVOTED TO ANIMAL WELFARE?

Animal Welfare
Domestic Animals and Farm Animals * The Non-animal Test Methods * Endangered Species * Wildlife * Captive Wildlife *

Congressman Tom Lantos of California and I are Co-Chairs of the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus. I am committed to animal welfare because I believe animals are vital to our livelihood, and I believe humankind has an obligation to all animals.

Some species have become our companions, some play important roles in sensitive ecosystems, and some are raised for food. It is our duty to protect and care for all of these animals.
Domestic Animals and Farm Animals

I oppose the inhumane treatment of domestic animals at breeding facilities.

So-called puppy mills, where purebred puppies are mass-produced, are a particular problem. These facilities treat dogs like widgets in a factory, breeding females every heat cycle, warehousing dogs and their puppies in wire cages in tall stacks or in sheds, and denying dogs meaningful human companionship.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) already prohibits the inhumane treatment of dogs and their puppies in breeding facilities, but as of today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) still lacks the resources and authority to enforce these provision.

Back in 1998, I urged the Animal Care Division at the USDA to rigorously inspect dealers and investigate alleged mistreatment at puppy mills. I also urged strict penalties for those operators found to be in violation of the AWA.

On November 7, 2003, I joined 36 of my colleagues in introducing H.R. 3484, the Puppy Protection Act 2003. H.R. 3484 would help the USDA enforce the AWA by encouraging swift and strong enforcement against repeat offenders.

I have also requested additional funding for the USDA to implement appropriate inspection of research laboratories and breeding facilities.

I also oppose the cruel and senseless slaughter of American horses for human consumption in foreign markets. This is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 3781, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

This bill would prohibit any person from: (1) slaughtering a horse for human consumption; (2) importing to, or exporting from, the United States horseflesh or horses for human consumption; or (3) selling, bartering, transferring, receiving, or distributing horseflesh or horses for human consumption. The bill would impose penalties on persons who violate these provisions.
Horses are not just companion and recreational animals, they are a vital part of our nation's culture and history.

I am also an original cosponsor of H.R. 2519, the Downed Animal Protection Act. This legislation which would regulate the use and treatment of livestock that is too sick to stand or walk unassisted. These animals are known as downed or downer animals.

I believe that unhealthy downed animals should never enter the food chain.These animals have an increased risk of bacterial contamination and other diseases, including mad cow disease. The transportation and handling of downed animals inflict undue suffering on them.
H.R. 2519 addresses this concern by requiring that all downed livestock are euthanized humanely.

Non-animal Test Methods
I support animal protection programs and I believe no animal should be subjected to pain in scientific tests if non-animal test methods are available and would give equally accurate results.
Several non-animal test methods for skin absorption, irritation, and corrosion have been reviewed and accepted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

I believe the United States should not lag behind other OECD member countries with regard to our policies that still require or accept data from outdated, inefficient and cruel test methods.
Congressman James Moran and I sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2004, requesting information on the steps the agencies will take to institute a policy to accept data from these tests.

Endangered Species
First enacted in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is credited with preventing the immediate disappearance of more than 1,000 wildlife species, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear and Pacific salmon. I support the preservation and protection of endangered species, and I oppose efforts to weaken ESA.

For example, in 2002, I opposed H.R. 4840, the Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act. ESA decisions should be based on "sound science." However, given that the Act addressed species that almost by definition are likely to be rare, there may be little or no information on many of the species facing extinction, and insufficient personnel or funds available to conduct studies on many species.

H.R. 4840 would have delayed the protection of species that need federal protection. This legislation required an independent board to review and report on the scientific information and analyses on which a covered action is based before it becomes final. There may be few (or no) people in the world knowledgeable about some species and these specialists often have other duties and may not be available to serve governmental regulators.

The provisions of H.R. 4840 would have unnecessarily weakend ESA. The federal agencies responsible for carrying out this legislation have initiated several joint policies that are quite effective in gathering scientific and commercial data, soliciting expert opinions and completing a peer review when it is likely to reduce or resolve an unacceptable level of scientific uncertainty.

Wildlife
Protecting our environment is one of the most important jobs I have as a congressman. I believe we have a responsibility to protect America's last herd of free-roaming buffalo. This is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 3446, the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act.
H.R. 3446 would prohibit state and federal government agency officials from hazing, capturing, or killing Yellowstone bison on federal lands except when a person's life is in danger or property has been damaged.

The bill states Yellowstone bison must be allowed to range freely on federal lands to the immediate north and west of the park. It also places management authority of bison within Yellowstone under the sole jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 1472, the Don't Feed the Bears Act because I believe bear baiting is a cruel, irresponsible practice.

This bill requires enforcement of existing regulations to prevent bear baiting on National Park System lands and wildlife refuge areas located in states where there is no state statute prohibiting bear baiting, as well as the adoption and enforcement of regulations to prohibit individuals from intentionally feeding bears on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service.

I oppose bear baiting on ethical grounds. Hunters who use the technique set out large piles of odorous foods and then lie in wait for the bear; the animal never has a chance against the hunter's high-powered rifle or compound bow.

Bear baiting also poses a threat to humans. We warn visitors to our national parks not to feed the bears because we do not want bears to become acclimated to human food. Once a bear is acclimated, they are more likely to raid a campsite or threaten humans in other ways.

Finally, I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 1800, which would ban the use of steel-jawed leghold traps on animals in the United States. The traps are excessively cruel and unselective -- often capturing both wild and domestic non-target animals. Furthermore, because more humane alternatives exist, the suffering inflicted by steel jaw leghold traps is oftentimes unnecessary and avoidable.

Captive Wildlife
Exotic great cats shouldn't be held as pets. To keep a jaguar in a high-rise apartment, or a pack of lions on a private estate without special provisions for these exotic animals is to keep them in miserable living conditions.
This is why I was a cosponsor and supported H.R. 1006, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which bars interstate and international trade and transport of exotic cats, specifically of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and cougars. The bill excludes licensed zoos, circuses, federally licensed breeders and other licensed places like university laboratories, veterinarians or animal shelters from these provisions.
Congress passed H.R. 1006 on December 8, 2003, and President Bush signed the bill into law on December 19, 2003
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