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Legal Information

Questions regarding Animals in a Natural Disaster

Help for individuals after a disaster

Last updated on 06/10/2021 at 12:52 pm

This Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) project was designed to help address the legal questions generated by animal rescuers, animal shelters, veterinarians, and pet owners following a natural disaster. It was initiated and produced by the West Virginia State Bar and the Animal Law Committee.

DISCLAIMER: While the WV State Bar and the Animal Law Committee makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented here, the WV State Bar and the Animal Law Committee do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information. The information contained here is provided as general information only and is not intended, nor shall be construed, as specific legal advice. Only a licensed attorney can provide legal advice. Use of any information from this page is strictly voluntary and any reliance on it should be undertaken only after an independent review by qualified experts. The WV State Bar and the Animal Law Committee are not responsible for, and expressly disclaim all liability for, damages arising out of the use of any information contained on this website.

PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY

What actions may police or other government authorities take during a natural disaster to control dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs – i.e., can they shoot or otherwise harm them?

Is anyone besides government officials permitted to take such action?

Does it make a difference if the dangerous animal is a companion animal, wildlife, or other type of animal?

What actions may be taken to control loose, but not dangerous dogs?

What if there is a perceived risk that some or all loose animals may endanger public health and safety? How is this determined? What measures may be taken by government agencies and/or others to secure the public’s health and safety generally, if the threat is not aggressiveness, but animals’ rabies or communicable diseases?

Veterinary Medicine

What legal rights, responsibilities, and immunities exist, if any, for West Virginia veterinarians (vets) in an emergency such as the aftermath of the flooding?

What legal rights, responsibilities, and immunities exist, if any, for veterinarians (vets) licensed in other states who come to West Virginia to help here?

What are the limits, if any, on the types of medical treatments that may be performed on rescued animals – only those necessary to save life? What about spay and neuter procedures?

Aside from the laws, what do the American Veterinary Association, West Virginia Veterinarians, and the state vet requirements say, if anything, about vets assisting with these types of rescue situations and the above questions?

Can veterinarians (vets) be sued for providing emergency, free services in disaster situations?

Animal Shelters

What are the limits, if any, on the types of medical treatments that may be performed on rescued animals – only those necessary to save life? What about spay and neuter procedures? top

Is there a time where the answer to above question 3a changes – i.e., during the holding period for when animals may be reclaimed? What about after that? At what point does the holding period start? Is the holding period different during a declared emergency?

Can an animal be euthanized during the statutory hold period?

Private Individuals

I am not affiliated with a rescue or a government agency but I have found a stray animal. Do the rules regarding holding periods apply to me? What must I do?

How do I prove ownership of my pet that is being held at a shelter?

I am not affiliated with a rescue or government agency but I want to rescue animals in areas recovering from the flood. Can I enter someone’s property to remove an animal without law enforcement or animal control officers?

Can animal “rescue” result in criminal sanctions?

Livestock

If you find livestock on your property that has damaged your property, what can you do?

I have found livestock animals. What do I do with them?