Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2017 and has since been updated in light of Hurricane Dorian's anticipated landfall in Florida.
If you’re forced to evacuate, can you take your household pets with you?
Many people consider their pets part of their family and would never consider leaving them behind. And we have seen a number of viral social media posts in recent years claiming a federal law mandates that hotels, motels, and shelters take your pet in if you’re under a state of emergency.
This is NOT true – and it’s dangerous for people to leave their homes thinking they can go to any hotel they want and it will be mandated to take them. Hotels and motels never have a legal obligation to allow any animals inside other than service animals.
Unfortunately for those seeking a safe place for themselves and their pets, they cannot force a hotel to house them.
The claim cites the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (PETS).
That is a real law that was created to help sort out the confusion and safety of animals during emergency events. It does require local governments to have emergency plans for pets and sometimes requires they create shelters or other locations to house pets.
However, it does not mandate any sort of housing requirements for hotels, motels or any other private housing.
This post first started making its rounds in 2017 around the time that hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. FEMA didn't initially respond in 2017, but they have since posted an update on their "rumor control" page from the previous storms.
Their post calls the posts False.
"Rumor: Pets In Hotels (Transitional Sheltering Assistance)
There are reports that hotels and motels participating in the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program are legally required to accommodate pets. This is FALSE. (September 8)
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."
We can Verify the post is False. You cannot make a hotel house your pet even in emergency situations.
We spoke to a veterinarian who said that the best thing to do is make sure your pet is microchipped, have a pet carrier and plenty of food and water ready to go if you need to evacuate.
Now, there are plenty of shelters that DO accept pets, we tried to make clear the ones we know will take your beloved animals in our list of shelters currently expected to open for Hurricane Dorian. Learn more by clicking here.
The following sites also maintain lists of animal-friendly travel options:
What other people are reading right now:
- Hurricane Dorian could be powerful Category 4 storm by the time it nears Florida
- Live blog: Hurricane Dorian to become major hurricane over next few days
- Hurricane Headquarters: Track the tropics, find your evacuation zone
- Gov. Ron DeSantis declares state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Dorian
- Where to get sandbags to prepare for Hurricane Dorian
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