The Wake of Reform

Newt Gingrich believes there is definitely a place for a pet evacuation plan.

By Dusty Rainbolt

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Make a Difference
People at the grassroots level can make a difference when it comes to changing public policies, Gingrich says.

Recently California Representative Tom Lantos introduced the Pet Evacuation Transportation Standards (PETS) Act. If passed, the PETS Act will amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act and ensure that state and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.

Your readers should contact their members of congress and tell them to support the bill Senator Lantos introduced, he says.

Better still, ask them to cosponsor the bill.

Theres no reason it can't be passed early [this] year, he says.

Although Gingrich presently has no pets because of his extensive travel schedule, he has lived with cats and dogs throughout his life. Also, his sisters and daughters all have pets. He knows first-hand the positive affect pets can have on people.

In emergencies like Katrina, we need to have a plan that allows pets to be evacuated along with their owners. Not only is saving the pets the right and the humane thing to do, it also can improve the quality of life of the human survivors.

Fortunately, government officials learned from mistakes made surrounding Katrina. When Hurricane Rita barreled toward the Texas coast, evacuees were permitted to take pets provided they were contained in carriers. Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thompson says public transportation evacuated 3,500 people. Although no one kept track of the numbers, Thompson says they had a lot of cats, dogs, birds and pocket pets in carriers on those buses. She says they had a very high evacuation compliance rate.

We knew from Katrina, if we didn't let people take their animals, they wouldn't evacuate, Thompson says. The shelters being supplied by the state had provision for the animals.

She adds that the order to allow pets came from Governor Rick Perrys office of emergency preparedness.

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