Letter to the Editor: California lawmakers must protect people and pets during extreme weather even

Brittnay Benesi, Columnist

California has long been at the forefront of climate change, and following reports that July was the hottest month on record, it’s even more apparent that the impact of disasters and extreme weather require planning and action. While the risks to public health and community safety are always top of mind in this conversation, sharing in this risk – and often overlooked – are residents’ pets. 

Currently, unclear state guidance and low rate of pet-friendly emergency shelter facilities or “co-shelters” – where people can take and stay with their pets – are enhancing the human risks associated with any emergency response. Those who are denied shelter with their pets may refuse evacuation or attempt to illegally reenter evacuation sites to rescue their animals, threatening their own safety and that of first responders. 

Thankfully, the California Assembly recently passed a bill (A.B. 781) that would ensure local governments designate pet-friendly sheltering sites, so families have a safe and comfortable place to go when disaster strikes. A.B. 781 must also pass the Senate and be signed by Governor Newsom before it can become law, and I urge the California Legislature to pass this bill to help prevent life-threatening situations for people and pets. 

This was submitted by Brittnay Benesi, ASPCA Senior Director of State Legislation for the Western Division in Truckee.

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