CLAIM

The federal government, either through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the 2006 PETS law allows pet owners to bring their pets to any hotel or motel during weather-related evacuations.

RATING

MOSTLY FALSE

WHAT'S TRUE

Irrespective of the weather, service animals are excluded from hotel and motel "pet policies" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

WHAT'S FALSE

Neither the Federal Emergency Management Agency nor federal law require hotels and motels to accept pets during hurricane evacuations or other disasters.

ORIGIN

In late August and early September 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma prompted social media claims that the federal government, either through a 2006 law or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mandated that pets be allowed to accompany disaster evacuees into hotels and motels. A typical claim read:

FLORIDA FRIENDS WITH PETS:

ATTENTION: 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 facing disasters.

DONT SHARE, COPY AND PASTE SO MORE PEOPLE READ THIS!”

The 2006 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 essentially mandates that FEMA take into account the needs of pet owners when developing disaster preparedness plans. It also authorizes the director of the agency to fund emergency shelter facilities for pets. It makes no mention of hotels or motels. The summary on Congress.gov 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.

In preparation for Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, FEMA advised pet owners to “locate several ‘pet-friendly’ hotels.” It made no mention of a requirement for hotels to accommodate pets: 

 

Planning for animal evacuation:

  • If you must leave your residence, have a plan for your family pets;
  • Go online and locate several “pet-friendly” hotels in and out of your area;
  • Identify friends or relatives outside your area where you and your pets can stay;
  • If there is a disaster pending, evacuate early with your pets, working animals and livestock; don’t wait for a mandatory evacuation order; and
  • Animals should have leg bands or tattoos, microchips or identification tags with their name as well as your address and phone number.

FEMA’s other guides for pet owners, also make no mention of the purported requirement. 

As of press time, FEMA’s “Rumor Controlpage, makes no mention of the rumor.  We reached out to the agency for comment, but have not yet received a response. 

However, disabled people who use service animals do have the law on their side when they check in to a hotel. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes service animals legally exempt from any hotel “pet policies” 

Bottom line: there is no law that requires hotels to accommodate household pets during a natural disaster. Pet owners should plan accordingly. 

Sources:

Pohlid, Kathleen.   “New Regulations On Service Animals In The Hotel Industry.”
    Hotel Business Review.   Accessed 7 September 2017.

Worgull, Samantha.   “How To Handle Service Animals At Hotels.”
    Hotel News Now.   4 August 2014.

FEMA.   “Before A Disaster: Plan For Your Pets.”
    Accessed 7 September 2017.

FEMA.   “Prepare For Emergencies Now: Information For Pet Owners.”
    Accessed 7 September 2017.

FEMA.   “Facilitator Guide: Pet/Service Animal Preparedness.”
    Accessed 7 September 2017.

109th Congress.   “H.R.3858, Pets Evacuation And Transportation Standards Act Of 2006.”
    6 October 2006.

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division: Disability Rights Section.   “Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals In Places Of Business.”
    July 1996.

FEMA.   “FEMA Advises Disaster Applicants To Beware Of Rumors, Misinformation, And Fraud.”
    31 August 2017.

FEMA.   “Hurricane Harvey Rumor Control.”
    Accessed 7 September 2017.

AVMA.   “PETS Act (FAQ).”
    Accessed 7 September 2017.