Pet-friendly Shelters

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery, Companion Animals October 08, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

“Pet-friendly” describes a human emergency shelter located in the same area or facility as an emergency shelter for pets. Typically, pet owners are allowed to care for their own animals.

Pet-friendly shelters were created as a result of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina. On October 6, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act). According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the act authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) "to provide rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for people with household pets and service animals, and to household pets and animals following a major disaster or emergency.”

"The Pet-Friendly Shelter Manager Course is free and available to the public." View Course

With the exception of service animals, state health and safety regulations generally prohibit sheltering humans and animals in the same room. Separate areas help reduce health risks for humans, especially people with compromised immune systems and people with asthma or allergies to animal dander, feathers, or fur. Keeping animals in a separate location also helps reduce the risk of human injury from animal bites and scratches.  

Pet-friendly shelters usually are organized by local animal control offices or county/state animal response teams in partnership with the local mass care provider (American Red Cross, social services, a church, or a school board; visit your local Emergency Management Agency office to learn which group has that responsibility). Other pet-friendly shelter partners include animal care organizations, private businesses, local media, and nonprofit organizations.

Learn more:

Your Plan Should Include All Family Members (Protect Your Pets, American Red Cross) 

Family Preparedness (Make a Plan, Extension Disaster Education Network)

Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006

Shelter Operations: Pet-Friendly Shelters (Best practices from FEMA)

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.