BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts cities and towns would be required to come up with emergency evacuation and shelter plans for household pets under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the state Senate.
The proposal that would mandate that all municipal emergency evacuation plans include measures to care for pets and service animals now heads to the state House.
Sen. Karen Spilka said the bill will ultimately help protect local residents since many pet owners are reluctant to abandon their pets during emergencies, putting themselves and first responders at risk.
"Animals that do get left behind often suffer tragic consequences," said Spilka, D-Ashland. "Victims of a disaster should not have to suffer the additional emotional stress of having to abandon their household pets as well."
Spilka said at the federal level, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act requires states that accept federal funding for homeland security preparedness to provide for animals in their state-level disaster planning.
She said that state legislation is needed to ensure local civil defense agencies also include provisions for animals. Cities and towns would have a year to come up with the new emergency plans to evacuate and shelter pets during disasters if the measure becomes law.
Backers of the bill say if it is passed, Massachusetts would join 13 other states with similar laws aimed at caring for pets during emergencies.