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Quijano & Wagner Bill to Help Residents Evacuate Pets During Emergencies Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) — An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Annette Quijano and Connie Wagner 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.

“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.”

Specifically, the bill (A-3445) 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 are still trying to reunite with them more than four months later,” said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The last thing we want is a pet owner to refuse to evacuate because they can’t bring their pet with them. This is the right thing to do from a practical standpoint.”

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 was approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.