Currently in New Jersey, pets are not allowed on public transportation unless they are service animals. State Senator Jeff Van Drew says we've learned from super-storm Sandy and past storms that for a lot of people a bus, train or cab is the only travel option and they will stay behind if they can't take their pets with them even if they're being directed to evacuate because of an emergency.

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A senate committee has approved a Van Drew-sponsored bill to allow pet owners to board public transportation with a pet during an evacuation in connection with a declared state of emergency.

"For the safety of our residents and rescue workers, it is critical that everyone follows evacuation orders when they are given," explains Van Drew. "However, we know there are always people that stay behind during a crisis because they refuse to leave their pets. As a dog owner I completely understand this, but I also recognize the incredible danger involved in remaining in a storm-threatened area."

The legislation would permit pets to ride on public transportation for emergency evacuation purposes provided that doing so would not prevent other humans from evacuating. The pet owner could board public transportation as long as the pet was under the owner's control by use of a leash or tether, or properly secured and confined to an appropriate container or other suitable means. Only pets that do not pose a health of safety hazard could ride on public transportation for emergency evacuation purposes, under the legislation.

Van Drew says, "We have to give people the ability to get their animals out of harm's way during a declared state of emergency. Allowing pets to board public transportation with their owners is the compassionate thing to do, and it's the smart thing to do for the safety of our state."

Under the measure, a "pet" is defined as a domestic companion animal like a dog, cat, bird, fish, or any animal commonly referred to as a pet that has been bought, bred or raised or otherwise acquired for the primary purpose of providing companionship rather than agricultural purposes.

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee approved the measure by a vote of 5-0 yesterday. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.