(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Joseph Cryan and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that was inspired in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and would allow passengers to board public transportation with their pets during a state of emergency or evacuation received final legislative approval by the full Senate on Thursday.
“We first saw the realities of this situation in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina when many residents refused to evacuate because they couldn’t bring their pets with them. During Sandy, this reality hit home,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This jeopardizes not only the lives of residents and the emergency personnel struggling to evacuate them, but also these defenseless pets. This measure will help us avoid this situation as much as humanly possible.”
The bill (A-3445), approved by a vote of 35-0, would permit a pet owner to board public transportation so long as the animal is under the owner’s control by use of a leash or tether, or is properly confined in an appropriate container or by other suitable means, and does not pose a health or safety hazard. However, the bill stipulates that passengers on public transportation must be provided seating before a domestic companion animal may be placed in a seat.
“During Superstorm Sandy we heard many heartbreaking stories of families getting separated from their pets, some who were still trying to reunite with them months later and some who, sadly, were never able to reunite with them,” said Cryan (D-Union). “This is the right thing to do from a practical standpoint.”
“For months after Sandy, we saw countless Facebook posts from families trying to find their pets or from people or rescue groups who had found pets and were trying to reunite them with their owners,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We certainly don’t want to see pet owners endangering their own life because they refuse to evacuate without their pet and this bill will help avoid that.”
Under the bill, pets are characterized as a “domestic companion animal,” such as a dog, cat, bird, fish or any animal commonly referred to as a pet that has been bought, bred, raised or otherwise acquired for the primary purpose of providing companionship, rather than for agricultural purposes.
The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.