Legislation aims at protecting pets | SierraSun.com

Legislation aims at protecting pets

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun
Court Leve/Sierra SunA dog is stranded near a house in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Proposed legislation will require offices of emergency services to have animal evacuation plans for emergencies.
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Two bills moving through the California Legislature aim to protect pets by implementing emergency evacuation plans and limiting the time dogs can be tethered.

Under the proposed bills, if a massive wildfire, flood or earthquake hit the Truckee-Tahoe area, emergency officials would have additional duties beyond evacuating or caring for people and property. Assembly bill 450, which is pending in the California Legislature, would require the Office of Emergency Services to include animals in their operational plans.

There is an unofficial organization of volunteers already in place in western Nevada County that assists with animal evacuation and rescue, said Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens, but it is unclear what group or organization would assist in Truckee.

In Placer County, as a part of an emergency operations plan approved by the board of supervisors in 2004, the boarding of animals for displaced persons, coordination of veterinary care and reuniting of animals separated from their humans is handled by a coordinated effort between the Office of Emergency Services and local animal services, according to Public Information Officer Anita Yoder.

The state’s proposed legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, passed the Assembly 76-1. It was approved by the Senate Government Organizations Committee on June 14 and now heads to the full Senate.

The bill came about in reaction to Hurricane Katrina, in which many displaced Gulf Coast animals were stranded as residents either scrambled for their own safety or felt helpless in the storm flooding.

Despite critics’ contention that taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of evacuating animals, Yee said, “It is important that we consider animals in our disaster planning as they play a critical role in our lives and our economy.”

Meanwhile, the Senate has passed SB1578, which prohibits a person from tethering, fastening, chaining, tying, or restraining a dog to a dog house, tree, fence, or other stationary object for more than three hours in a 24-hour period.

Dogs that are tethered, especially in isolation, suffer sadness, boredom and loneliness, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The bill, which was sponsored by the California Animal Association, will now go to the Assembly. If passed, tethering a dog for an extended period could result in misdemeanor charges punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, and/or up to six months in jail.