FEMA Policy 9523.19 defines a household pet as a domesticated animal, such as a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, rodent, or turtle that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, can travel in commercial carriers, and be housed in temporary facilities. Household pets do not include reptiles (except turtles), amphibians, fish, insects/arachnids, farm animals (including horses), and animals kept for racing purposes.
Pets are an integral component of many families. Data from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Pet Product Association show that there are approximately 59% as many household pets in the US as people. Communities in the U.S. and many countries that must evacuate will almost assuredly evacuate with a substantial number of pets. If accommodations are not made for people with pets, some owners may refuse to evacuate, fail to follow official instructions, or circumvent reception/monitoring sites.
The Stafford Act was amended by the 2006 Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act and now requires that State, Territorial, Tribal, and local jurisdictions accommodate the needs of people with pets and service animals within their emergency plans.
Development of animal decontamination capabilities matching jurisdictional hazards should be one element of planning and preparedness process for every jurisdiction. While FEMA has a definition of household pet, emergency planners should be aware that many other animals might be in the community, including snakes, lizards, amphibians, fish, and exotic wildlife kept as pets.
In some areas, it is not uncommon for livestock such as horses, goats and potbellied pigs to be kept as pets. While such animals may not fit the Federal definition, such animals they might affect the choices and behaviors of their owners during a disaster.