The California Animal Response Emergency System (CARES) concept was conceived in response to the Yuba floods of 1997. As a result of difficulties experienced managing animals in that disaster, then Governor Pete Wilson issued a Flood Emergency Action Team (FEAT) report. From the recommendations in the report, the Governor issued Executive Order W-156-97: “OES shall cooperate with local animal control officers and CDFA in reviewing livestock and pet evacuation procedures to develop animal safety and relocation procedures for use during future emergencies”.
By 2001, the California Department of Food and Agriculture had developed an extensive operational system which was named CARES. It included a master concept of operations including several standard operating procedures. The original draft operational documents were never finalized and approved, however have continued to be refined and developed over time.
In 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 450, which mandated that CARES be incorporated into the State Emergency Plan, and that CDFA and Cal OES enter into a Memorandum of Understanding that would require them to incorporate CARES into all levels of the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS.) This law can be found in California Government Code Section 8608. The MOU between the agencies can be viewed here: CalOES-CDFA MOU
Simultaneously in 2006, then President George W. Bush signed The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) act. PETS was a bi-partisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking emergency Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evaluating and sheltering people during disasters. The bill, now Public Law 109-308 also allows for reimbursement of certain animal-related supplies under The Stafford Act.
Today, CARES is managed jointly by the CDFA and Cal OES with participation from numerous government and non-governmental organizations that serve on the CARES Steering Committee. CARES seeks to:
- strengthen the system for coordinating and sharing animal emergency information and resources among all levels of government,
- enhance the management of animals for their safety and well-being during emergencies,
- develop and distribute information, including best practices, regarding the protection and care of animals prior to, during, and after an emergency incident,
- recommend policies to ensure California’s animal emergency response system and the actions taken by participating organizations are consistent with Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS),
- strengthen California’s ability to assist animals during regional and state wide emergencies, and,
- coordinate member participation and ensure animal welfare in the effectual evacuating, transporting, sheltering, feeding, and safely returning animals to their place of origin or to another appropriate location.