Thank you to Dechert LLP for providing this content with North Carolina information.
16.1 – Overview
In disaster situations, evacuations can be a primary mechanism used to protect human lives. Unfortunately for individuals with pets, service animals, or large animals, the evacuation process can be complicated. Statistics show that helping North Carolinians understand the rules, procedures, and considerations relevant to evacuations will save both animal and human lives. For example, a 2006 poll found that 44% of people who chose to shelter in place during Hurricane Katrina rather than evacuate made that decision because they did not want to evacuate without their pets. (Fritz Institute, Apr. 26, 2006). In addition, according to a 2017 study, “it is estimated that up to 80% of people who prematurely reenter an evacuation site do so to rescue a pet.” (Robin Chadwin, DVM, MPVM, American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 2017, “Evacuation of Pets During Disasters: A Public Health Intervention to Increase Resilience.”) This chapter addresses the legal rights of evacuees with respect to their animals—both domestic pets and livestock—and provides practical information and suggestions to help evacuate with animals safely and expediently.
16.2 – Most Common Issues/Questions
If I need to evacuate to a hotel or public shelter as a result of a disaster, is that establishment required to shelter my pet as well?
Are hotels and public shelters required to shelter my service animal if I need to evacuate?
What do I do with my large animals when I am required to evacuate or comply with a shelter in place order?
What will happen to my animals if I need to evacuate to another state?
What is the safest option for my animals in the event of an evacuation?
How do I prepare to protect my animals in a disaster situation that requires evacuation?
16.3 – Summary of the Law
16.3.1 – Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act
The Federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act 42 U.S.C.A. § 5196a-d (2006)) is a bi-partisan initiative passed in 2006, after tens of thousands of pets and other animals were abandoned during Hurricane Katrina. The PETS Act was enacted to ensure that FEMA is authorized during a major disaster or emergency to provide shelter and care not only to people but also to their service animals and household pets. The PETS Act also enables FEMA to provide funding to states for creating, operating, and maintaining pet-friendly emergency shelters and enacting plans for pets and service animals during disasters or emergencies, and requires that states’ disaster plans must consider issues related to evacuation and disaster recovery with respect to companion animals. Additionally, the PETS Act allows FEMA to reimburse state and local governments for costs associated with caring for animals during crises.
16.3.2 – The Americans with Disabilities Act
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers state and local governments and their third-party contractors (See www.ada.gov/ada_title_II.htm). The goal of Title II is to make sure that individuals with a disability have equal access to participate in or benefit from a public entity’s aids, benefits, and services, including emergency response services. This includes ensuring that individuals with a disability have equal access to shelters and emergency response services provided by state and local governments or their third-party contractors, including accommodation of individuals with disabilities who rely on service animals.
16.3.3 – North Carolina Emergency Management Laws, Rules, and Regulations
Pursuant to FEMA’s requirement that each state create an agency to oversee its disaster preparedness program and submit a disaster preparedness plan to the federal government in order to receive federal funding for emergency and disaster preparedness activities, North Carolina passed a statute in 2009 to establish the Division of Emergency Management of the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety (NCEM) (N.C.G.S.A. § 143B-1000 et seq), and in 2012 the state passed the North Carolina Emergency Management Act (the NCEM Act) (N.C.G.S.A. § 166A-19 et seq). The Act of 2012 repealed and replaced the North Carolina Emergency Management Act of 1977.
The purpose of the NCEM Act is to “[p]rovide for cooperation and coordination of activities relating to emergency mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery among agencies and officials of [North Carolina] and with similar agencies and officials of other states, with local and federal governments, with interstate organizations, and with other private and quasi-official organizations (N.C.G.S.A. § 166A-19.1).” Under the NCEM Act, the NCEM is responsible for, among other things, preparing and maintaining state emergency plans; coordinating with the North Carolina Health Director to amend and revise the North Carolina Emergency Operations Plan; coordinating the use of facilities, services and property during disaster situations; and liaising with the federal government, other states, and any other public or private organization to implement emergency programs (N.C.G.S.A. § 166A-19.12).
Apart from assigning emergency response powers (and limitations) to the governor, the Secretary of Public Safety, the NCEM, and local governments and specifying how federal and state disaster funding may be used, the NCEM Act generally does not provide specific emergency management procedures or guidelines. The NCEM Act imparts responsibility primarily on NCEM to establish the rules and procedures surrounding emergency management.
16.3.4 – The North Carolina Emergency Operation Plan
Pursuant to the NCEM Act and Executive Order No. 37 (January 26, 2018), NCEM is responsible for developing and maintaining a comprehensive state emergency plan to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made hazards, which may affect residents of North Carolina. This plan is called the North Carolina Emergency Operations Plan (the NCEOP) (NCEM, 2020 North Carolina Emergency Operations Plan (adopted on July 13, 2020, and last updated on July 2, 2021), www.ncdps.gov/documents/nc-emergency-operations-plan-documents. The Animal Protection Function of the NCEOP, which enforces the PETS Act, sets forth the emergency and disaster operations plan pertaining to the safety and wellbeing of animals, including companion and livestock animals.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA) has primary oversight over the Animal Protection Function of the NCEOP (Id. at Annex A, App. 3, Tab J, § IV). As part of its oversight, NCDA coordinates the State Animal Response Team (SART) (Id. at Annex A, App. 3, Tab J, § IV), which is a partnership between North Carolina government agencies (including, but not limited to, NCDA, the North Carolina Departments of Crime Control and Public Safety, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and county animal control offices) and private organizations (including, but not limited to, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the North Carolina Horse Council, the North Carolina Farm Bureau, and the North Carolina Dairy Producers Association).
Under the NCEOP, NCDA and SART coordinate protection of “all animals, whether owned, stray, or domestic, that may need help during disaster situations” and “ensure the humane care and treatment of animals during disaster in order to increase compliance by citizens who may disregard evacuation recommendations due to a perceived inability to evacuate with their companion animals (Id. at Annex A, App. 3, Tab J, § I).” This oversight involves, among other things, assisting with the evacuation of citizens with pets; identifying and supporting pet-friendly emergency shelters, animal shelters, and emergency livestock holding sites; and coordinating additional resources to affected areas, including food, medicine, shelter personnel, and veterinary professional
(Id. at Annex A, App. 3, Tab J, §§ III–IV).
16.3.5 – The North Carolina Animal Disaster Sheltering Preparedness Manual
In furtherance of their objectives under the Animal Protection Function of the NCEOP, NCDA and SART have published an Animal Disaster Sheltering Preparedness Manual (the Sheltering Manual) with recommendations and proposed guidelines for pet owners, rescue teams, and emergency shelters (SART, Animal Disaster Sheltering Preparedness Manual, www.ncagr.gov/oep/sheltering/manuals.htm). Although the guidelines have not been formally enacted as regulations by the governor or the Secretary of Public Safety, they provide important recommendations for animal owners and for organizers of emergency shelters that accept companion animals. The Sheltering Manual also outlines several North Carolina laws that, while not directly related to emergency evacuation and sheltering, may become relevant during such situations, such as laws regarding abandoned animals and dog bites.
16.4 – FAQs
Q 16.4.1 – If I need to evacuate to a hotel or public shelter as a result of a disaster, is that establishment required to shelter my pet as well?
No, hotels and public shelters are not required to shelter companion animals that are not service animals. Neither the PETS Act nor the laws and regulations of North Carolina require hotels and public shelter to accept pets during emergency and disaster situations. State or county officials may designate certain shelters as pet-friendly shelters; however, pet owners should be aware that pet-friendly shelters will require humans and pets to be housed separately in different areas and that in some locations pets may be transported to another location off-site from the human shelter.
Pet owners planning to stay in a hotel should verify the pet policy at their destination hotel prior to evacuation. Pet owners planning to stay in a public shelter should verify which shelters accept pets, which types of pets are accepted (e.g., some shelters may allow cats and dogs but not reptiles and birds), and what documentation or other items pet owners are required to provide for admission of their pets to the shelters.
NCEM’s emergency preparedness website maintains a list of open shelters during emergencies (www.readync.gov/stay-informed/open-shelters) and has general information to help North Carolina pet owners plan for their animals during an emergency, including a link to pet-friendly hotels, an evacuation checklist, and a list of important materials to include in a pet-ready evacuation kit (www.readync.gov/plan-and-prepare/pets-and-service-animals). County governments’ websites may have more specific information regarding the location of pet-friendly shelters and required documentation in their counties (See, e.g., the Onslow County website, www.onslowcountync.gov/1071/Sheltering-Evacuating, and the Beaufort County website, www.beaufortnc.org/fire/page/shelters).
In addition, the Humane Society of the United States provides resources for pet owners to prepare for disaster situations and tips for how to care for pets when evacuating or sheltering in place (www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/disaster/disaster_preparedness_pets.pdf).
Q 16.4.2 – Are hotels and public shelters required to shelter my service animal if I need to evacuate?
Yes, pursuant to the ADA, hotels (Note that the ADA does not apply to hotels, inns, or motels where the owner lives at the establishment and rents five or fewer rooms to guests) and public shelters are required to shelter service animals, even if they have a general no pets policy. Owners of service animals must be allowed to keep their service animals with them, even if the hotel or public shelter has a general policy of housing pets separately from humans.
Owners of service animals should note that hotel employees and shelter personnel may ask them whether their animal is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform, to the extent that the answers to these questions are not obvious. However, they may not ask for details about a person’s disability, require proof that the service animal is certified or licensed, or ask that the service animal demonstrate its abilities.
The ADA National Network offers more information regarding how the ADA applies to evacuees with service animals and provides an emergency supply kit checklist to help service animal owners prepare for an evacuation (www.adata.org/service-animal-resource-hub/emergencies). For additional information about emergency and disaster relief preparedness for people traveling with service dogs, visit the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (www.iaadp.org/disaster.html).
Q 16.4.3 – What do I do with my large animals when I am required to evacuate or comply with a shelter in place order?
According to NCDA, the leading causes of death of livestock during hurricanes and similar natural disasters are collapsed barns, dehydration, electrocution, and fencing-related accidents. Given the particular challenges of evacuating or sheltering large animals, owners should develop a plan well in advance of a disaster or emergency. NCDA provides more information and resources for livestock owners to plan for emergency situations, including advice regarding preparing properties for sheltering in place and preparing supplies for an evacuation (www.ncagr.gov/disaster/Livestock.htm).
If owners can evacuate their animals, they should check with NCAD, NCEM and local county and town officials to identify designated shelter locations for horses and livestock, which may include fair grounds, stock yards, racetracks, and privately owned farms and veterinary offices that have volunteered to house evacuated animals. Shelter locations may require specific medical or identification documentation, and owners will be responsible for providing feed and other materials for their animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that owners prepare a livestock evacuation kit that includes feed, water, supplements, supplies (medications, rope/lariat, halters/leads, cleaning supplies, knives, etc.), and documents showing proof of ownership and medical records (See www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/usda-livestock-preparedness-fact-sheet.pdf).
The Equine Disaster Response Alliance and the North Carolina Equine Directory provides information regarding emergency sheltering and emergency transportation for horses, including a list of emergency shelter locations in all North Carolina counties and a list of all persons who provide emergency transportation services to evacuate horses (www.ncagr.gov/markets/livestock/horse/EquineDisasterResponseAlliancePartners.htm and www.ncagr.gov/markets/livestock/horse/directory/index.htm). Horse owners should be aware that they will need to provide copies of current Coggins test results for all horses.
If owners are unable to evacuate their animals, they should follow USDA, NCDA and NCEM guidance to prepare their properties for the emergency, including locating an appropriate area where animals have access to both high ground (to avoid flooding) and low ground (to avoid high winds), replacing barbwire or electric fencing which may harm animals during an emergency, and preparing sources of food and water in the event that local water system or wells become non-operational or contaminated (See www.ncagr.gov/disaster/Livestock.htm and www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/usda-livestock-preparedness-fact-sheet.pdf).
Q 16.4.4 – What will happen to my animals if I need to evacuate to another state?
North Carolina residents who evacuate to neighboring states will need to follow similar procedures as they would have followed in North Carolina, such as preparing a disaster kit including food, medicine, identification, and other animal supplies and identifying pet-friendly hotels and shelters in advance. In addition, animal owners should check any state-specific requirements for importing animals. Neighboring states may require a veterinary exam dated within 30 days, proof of vaccination, or other documentation. There may be additional requirements for livestock and poultry, pet birds, rabbits, ferrets, rodents, and reptiles and exotic pets.
The links below provide information on state-specific animal and health requirements for nearby states:
South Carolina: www.clemson.edu/public/lph/ahp/import/index.html
States may have developed specific rules and regulations for the importation of animals during disasters. Accordingly, animal owners should plan their evacuation routes and determine the specific guidelines in destination states in advance or evacuating with their animals.
Q 16.4.5 – What is the safest option for my animals in the event of an evacuation?
NCDA suggests that pet owners bring their pets with them during an evacuation and never leave their pets unattended. Animals left home alone may be injured by debris or drown in flood waters, or they may escape the home and become lost. In addition, pet owners may be unable to return home immediately after the event, and their pets may run out of food and clean water (See www.ncagr.gov/disaster/animals.htm).
With respect to horses and livestock, sheltering in place may be safer than evacuation depending on the type of disaster, the particular animals involved, and the property on which the animals will be sheltered. According to NCDA, large animal owners should identify an area on their properties where there are no overhead power lines, no debris or nearby sources of debris, no barbwire fencing, no trees that may uproot easily, and that is at least one acre in size. If the property does not meet these criteria, then it is safer to evacuate large animals (www.ncagr.gov/disaster/Livestock.htm).
Q 16.4.6 – How do I prepare to protect my animals in a disaster situation that requires evacuation?
Pet and large animal owners should develop evacuation plans in advance of a disaster or emergency, including identifying possible evacuation routes and pet-friendly hotels and shelters in the areas where they intend to travel, maintaining up-to-date identification and veterinary records, and preparing food, medications and other supplies their pets will need.
The NCDA website provides pages related to disaster preparedness for companion animals (including information for bird and fish owners) (www.ncagr.gov/disaster/animals.htm) and livestock, poultry and horse owners (www.ncagr.gov/disaster/Livestock.htm).
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and NCEM have each published emergency preparedness websites with information to help pet owners plan for their animals during an emergency, including a link to pet-friendly hotels, a checklist of things to do to plan to evacuate, and a list of important materials to include in a pet-ready evacuation kit (www.ready.gov/pets and www.readync.gov/plan-and-prepare/pets-and-service-animals).
The Humane Society of the United States provides resources for pet owners to prepare for disaster situations and tips for how to care for pets when evacuating or sheltering in place. The most important items to remember for a disaster preparedness kit for pets are medications and medical records, sturdy leashes, harnesses, and carriers for transportation, and food and water for at least three days for each pet (www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/disaster/disaster_preparedness_pets.pdf).
The ADA National Network website provides information regarding how the ADA applies to evacuees with service animals and an emergency supply kit checklist to help service animal owners prepare for an evacuation (www.adata.org/service-animal-resource-hub/emergencies). For additional information about emergency and disaster relief preparedness for people traveling with service dogs, visit the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (www.iaadp.org/disaster.html).
The American Veterinary Medical Association website has pages dedicated to disaster preparedness for pet owners (www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pets-and-disasters) and horse and livestock owners (www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters).