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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute

Employing GIS Techniques to Counter the Reluctance of Pet Owners to Evacuate from Disaster Events

Andrew Edmonds

Advisor:  Dr. Susan L. Cutter



An examination of recent disaster events reveals the addition of a new wrinkle to the operations of emergency management and response teams: the public is demanding the protection and safety of their pets. While planners and animal advocacy groups emphasize the need for individual household preparedness to disasters, national and state legislators have recently passed laws to ensure that the pet evacuation tragedies of Hurricane Katrina are not repeated. Communities are now expected to devise plans for the evacuation of animals, and for developing shelters that can accommodate pets, thereby providing an evacuating pet-owning public with housing alternatives. 

This thesis offers a blueprint for achieving these goals and is driven by the following research questions: 

•How does one model this hybrid, special-needs population?

•How does one determine the need of this population for emergency animal sheltering options based on known evacuation behavior?

•How does one determine appropriate locations for siting emergency animal shelters to support this group?

•How well distributed are current human emergency shelters; could they accommodate people and their pets if a decision was made to co-locate the populations during disaster events?

Results indicate that the GIS-based models of site suitability and location-allocation developed within this thesis can be instrumental in selecting appropriate locations for emergency animal shelters and for developing an advantageous constellation of mass care facilities. Likewise, the proposed pet-owning household population estimation model and the non-evacuation rate model will greatly assist local practitioners in gauging the need for these shelters in their own communities.