BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Pets occupy a favored place in many households, but researchers say planning for a pet's safety in a disaster has often been an afterthought.
"Almost 100 percent of people who have pets describe them as family members," said University of Colorado-Boulder sociologist Leslie Irvine. "And all family members need to be considered in a disaster plan."
She noted fewer than 10 years ago evacuations from Hurricane Andrew left some 1,000 deserted pets to be euthanized for lack of space to care for them. In 1999, more than 3 million pets and farm animals died in the wake of Hurricane Floyd.
However, she said no pets had to be euthanized in the aftermath of last year's Hurricane Charley, which was rated a category 4 storm with winds up to 145 miles per hour.
"Alongside the myths about looting and price gouging, Hurricane Charley revealed the myth of what I call 'the dangerous dog pack,'" she said, noting such behavior in newly displaced house pets has never been confirmed.
Irvine is calling for a re-examination and modification of emergency response plans to better reflect actual animal behavior in such emergency incidents.