Breaking! New Bill Aims To Protect Pets During A Wildfire Evacuation In California

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Assembly Bill 486 by Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) was introduced to establish protections for pets during a wildfire evacuation.

“Fire seasons have become year-round events, as such families must take the necessary steps to ensure that they are prepared to evacuate in a moment’s notice. While the safety and well-being of our family members is the priority, we must not forget our four-legged family members,” said Assemblymember Monique Limón in a statement. “As a member who represents an area that has faced countless wildfires, I know that pre-planning goes a long way. AB 486 ensures families forecast and have a plan that includes the evacuation of their animals, held in accordance with a local kennel permit required by the local jurisdiction.”

Under AB 486, if a local jurisdiction requires an owner to obtain a permit to keep animals, then a mandatory requirement of the permitting process must be development of an evacuation plan to be used during a wildfire evacuation. Evacuation plans can provide order in the chaos that can ensue in the wake of wildfires. When people stay behind to try to protect pets, they jeopardize not only their safety but also the safety of emergency personnel who are forced into dangerous situations that could have been prevented. In many cases, these preventative measures can save tax dollars by minimizing sending emergency personnel into dangerous situations that could have been prevented.

“In my community, Laguna Beach, we require evacuation plans for pet owners, and this kind of pre-planning saves lives. During the Malibu Fires, I heard of people who had time to get their pets to safety – but no idea how. As a result, hundreds of pets are lost every year during disasters, and many more are rescued but never reunited with their owners,” said Judie Mancuso, Founder and CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation, the sponsor of the bill. “The Legislature should take a lesson from Laguna Beach, City of Los Angeles, and others that already require this kind of forethought. It will save both human and animal lives when the next disaster strikes.”

“As a first responder in the Malibu Fires, Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Katrina, I have seen first-hand how crucial it is that all pet owners have an evacuation plan. Being prepared for a disaster can make the difference between life and death, not only for the pets, but also for the people who put their lives at risk to save them,” said Dr. Karen Halligan, a veterinarian who serves on the board of Social Compassion in Legislation. “I urge the legislature to pass this bill, as we do whatever we can to prepare for the disasters to come.”

“During the chaotic time when I was volunteering in Ojai at the peak of the December 2017 Thomas Fire, hundreds of beloved pets flooded into shelters where they were provided protection and veterinary care, but sadly, not all were so fortunate. As the wildfires raged on, countless pets who were abandoned by unprepared guardians became trapped at their homes, were released to run for their lives, or were relegated to the nearest empty paddock while their families fled. Simple pre-planning could have saved them all and protected first responders who went in after them. The Legislature has a chance to act now before this happens again,” added Dr. Heather Rally, D.V.M., Supervising Veterinarian at the PETA Foundation.

The bill will be heard in its first Assembly policy committee in the coming weeks.

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