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Steve King’s Inconsistent Approach to Disaster Response Leaves People and Pets Out in the Cold

King voted against including pets and service animals in disaster plans—a policy now saving lives in the regions devastated by Hurricane Sandy

WASHINGTON (Oct. 31, 2012) -- As the nation begins to recover from Hurricane Sandy, one of the most devastating storms to hit the United States, Steve King’s inconsistent and morally wrong position on disaster relief was on display last night during the final congressional debate in Mason City when he said that federal aid for people impacted by Hurricane Sandy should not be spent on "Gucci bags and massage parlors." The Humane Society Legislative Fund notes that King not only voted against flood relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but he was one of only a handful of lawmakers who voted against the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006, which now requires disaster plans to include pets and service animals.

The vote on the PETS Act came in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the Gulf Coast, after so many people stayed behind and put themselves and first responders at risk because there were no plans to care for pets. The House passed the bill by a vote of 349 to 24, and Steve King was the only Iowa lawmaker to vote against it. It passed the Senate unanimously, with support from both Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin. President George W. Bush signed it into law (H.R. 3858/P.L. 109-308)—saying that if he could take one thing while evacuating during a disaster, he would take his dog, Barney.

Because there is now an official federal policy in place on pets in disasters, which King opposed, responding agencies are better prepared to assist families that include pets and service animals in a time of crisis. More emergency shelters allow people to bring their pets when they evacuate disaster-stricken areas, or have separate accommodations set up for temporarily housing pets. The response to Hurricane Sandy took pets and service animals into account, which made the human relief effort more effective, since people were less likely to stay behind and put themselves in danger. In the years following Katrina, including during the floods in the Midwest, residents have benefited from having a federal policy on pets and service animals in disasters.

“When floods hit the Missouri River, Steve King knew he had no choice but to support a federal response to the disaster,” said Sara Amundson, executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “But what about all of the other people suffering in the wake of a disaster, and his series of votes to deny appropriate relief and assistance?  He also failed to recognize that caring for pets and service animals in disasters is a necessary component of any successful response, given the close bond that people have with their animals.”

About two-thirds of American households have pets. A Zogby International poll after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast found that 61 percent of pet owners will not evacuate if they cannot bring their pets with them.

Media contact: Heather Sullivan, (240) 477-2251, hsullivan@hslf.org

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HSLF is a nonpartisan organization that evaluates candidates based only on a single criterion: where they stand on animal welfare. HSLF does not judge candidates based on party affiliation or any other issue.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.

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