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Dog Law: Dogs and Disasters


One promising avenue is the creation of a national lost-pet database. In 2001, Louisiana formed a commission whose goals included coordinating “a statewide voluntary pet database that will assist animal owners in recovering lost animals.” Though the commission continues to be active, the database itself remains an unfulfilled promise. Private lost-and-found pet network sites such as Pets911.com and Lostpetdatabase.com, while operative and commendable, have sharp limitations: They rely on voluntary participation; are region-specific; and in practice, will never produce a national solution to a national problem.

Consider my two proposals to bolster the existing framework. The first is vertical: Across the country, we expand the existing VMAT program qualitatively by simply adding “search and rescue” to team task lists, and quantitatively by increasing the number of VMAT teams to 50, one per state. The second is horizontal: Within each state, we build a truly pragmatic lost-pet database by making microchipping mandatory and then linking microchip IDs to the GPS network. Smallish outlays of money plus modest impositions on owners plus large reliance on existing technology could perhaps add up to a reasonable fix.

For the present, stay optimistic that the federal government will eventually step up its program, and be heartened that each state has the independent power to fashion its own remedies. It may be initially disconcerting to realize that a VMAT team isn’t pulling up at your door any time soon, and that even if it did, it would more likely be to take a blood sample from you rather than scour the neighborhood for Captain Adorable. But the incentive is there, and those interested can generate political pressure. Go to fema.gov, click on “Regional Offices,” and call the number listed for either the Regional Coordinator or the SCO (State Coordinating Officer) who acts as the FEMA liaison; ask how your state’s emergency preparedness plan accommodates animals. If you don’t get an answer, express your concerns via a personal letter to the Director of Emergency Management for your state, and copy your local state representative and newspaper on the letter. And please—microchip your pet.




Geordie Duckler, JD, PhD, heads the Animal Law Practice, a unique private law practice in Portland, Ore., whose main focus is on the resolution, litigation and trial of animal-related disputes.


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