Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act: Do Hotels Have To Accept Evacuees’ Pets?

Getty PETS Act

Every time a major hurricane forces people to evacuate, the question arises: do hotels have to accept my pets since I’m an evacuee? In fact, you’ve probably seen some posts on Facebook claiming that the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Acts requires hotels to accept evacuees’ pets. Sadly, this is inaccurate. Read on for more details.

You’ve likely seen the posts on Facebook that say the following: “Folks in the path of the hurricane, or people that have family in the path: If you are evacuating to a hotel/motel and they say they DON’T accept pets, don’t get ugly, but simply tell them that is against the law & FEMA established that after Hurricane Katrina! The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) was a bi-partisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents. DON’T SHARE, COPY AND PASTE SO MORE PEOPLE READ THIS! It is Public Law 109-308. Folks in the path of the hurricane, or people that have family in the path:
If you are evacuating to a hotel/motel and they say they DON’T accept pets, don’t get ugly, but simply tell them that is against the law & FEMA established that after Hurricane Katrina! The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) was a bi-partisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents.”

The PETS act does indeed exist and it does require states accepting FEMA aid to find ways to accommodate evacuating residents’ pets. Unfortunately, this doesn’t automatically mean that hotels and motels need to accept those pets.

Here’s exactly what the bill reads:

Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 – Amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to require the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure that state and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.

Authorizes the Director to: (1) study and develop plans that take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency; and (2) make financial contributions, on the basis of programs or projects approved by the Director, to the states and local authorities for animal emergency preparedness purposes, including the procurement, construction, leasing, or renovating of emergency shelter facilities and materials that will accommodate people with pets and service animals.

Authorizes federal agencies to provide, as assistance essential to meeting threats to life and property resulting from a major disaster, rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs to individuals with household pets and service animals and to such pets and animals.”

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the PETS Act authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, and shelter to individuals with pets during a major disaster. It’s triggered when the federal government makes a disaster declaration, and it allows for “reimbursement for allowable, documented, services utilized in this emergency event.” In other words, this allows states to expend resources on helping pets during a disaster and be reimbursed for doing so.

During Hurricane Harvey, FEMA addressed the question of a “Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program” specifically. This was the same rumor — that hotels and motels participating in this program were required to accommodate pets. FEMA said the rumor was false and wrote: “Hotels and motels participating in FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program do not fall under the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act (Pub. L. 109-308 (2006)). Please call the hotel before you go and ask if pets are permitted. Hotels must accept service animals and individuals with access and functional needs should check with the hotel to ensure if accessible lodging accommodations are available to meet their needs.”

So unfortunately, FEMA and federal laws do not require that hotels and motels accept evacuees’ pets. In 2011 during Tropical Storm Irene, FEMA advised pet owners to find “pet friendly hotels” and did not mention the PETS Act they could cite.

And last year, when the rumor was circulating again, 13WMAZ asked a FEMA spokesperson about the rumor. They said: “In 2006, Congress passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act which ensures that emergency rescues and care shelters meet the essential needs of household pets and service animals. Therefore, this does not include hotels.”

Hotels are always required to accommodate disabled persons’ service animals, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. And the PETS Act can help fund the creation of more emergency shelters for pets during disasters.

If you’re wanting to stay at a hotel or a motel with your pet, don’t rely on the PETS Act to get you a room. Check online for pet friendly hotels or call the hotels you want to visit. (PetTravel can help you get started here.) Some hotels that aren’t normally pet friendly might change their policies during an emergency situation. You might even consider checking AirBNBs, as the owners renting rooms and homes might also make exceptions during emergency situations.