ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & POLICY
Black Indigenous and People of Color [BIPOC] AND their pets are on the frontlines of Global Climate Change, Air Pollution, and Rising Sea Levels. Millions are paying a price for policies they have little control over. CARE is determined to advocate for people of color and their pets facing Environmental Injustice.
Our Method For Change
Following CARE’s Human and Animal Well-being [HAW] + CARE Center models, we’ve begun vital Environmental Justice and Policy work in Kentucky. We look forward to gaining lessons from this project that will insight future projects around the country.
December 2021 will be a month no Kentuckians will ever forget, especially those in Representative Patti Minter’s House District (D-Bowling Green). More than 80 people died, destroying thousands of homes and displacing thousands of residents. More on the victims here. In Representative Minter’s district, the vast majority of fatalities were people of color.
Deeply affected, the Bowling Green legislator introduced a resolution to commemorate those that perished due to Mother Nature’s wrath. Representative Patti Minter introduced the resolution in the House of Representatives, which acknowledges the human and animal victims of the horrific tornado outbreaks, through the commemoration of “CARE” Day, which is named for Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE). CARE’s Chief of Policy and Environmental Justice Division, Akisha Townsend Eaton, who is a resident of Bowling Green, helped bring the plight of BIPOC residents and their pets to Minter’s attention, after seeing the devastating impact firsthand.
See Je’quan Owens & Deuce’s story below:
Summary of Bills, Projects, and Policy Measures currently underway
Kentucky Senate Bill 172
Sponsor: Julie Raque Adams
This bill does the following:
- Requires the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management to plan for the needs of people and pets in disasters.
- Requires this plan to include methods to notify owners of lost pets, provide direct return-to-owner protocols, and minimizing euthanasia of owned pets.
In some of the worst hit areas of the recent natural disasters in Kentucky, members of BIPOC communities were disproportionately impacted, representing most or all of the casualties in the largest localities. Many of these residents:
- Were already living at or below the poverty level.
- Lost all methods of communication in the tornadoes (cell phones, computers, etc.). Thus, they were not able to post missing pictures of pets or call on friends or neighbors to check on them.
- Lost all methods of transportation if they had transportation to begin with (cars were destroyed and thrown into streets and through houses).
- Did not speak English as a first language (over 89 languages are represented in the Bowling Green area alone).
- Did not know where to look for missing pets.
- Did not have the opportunity to evacuate to a human shelter that accepted pets for the first two days (some of these residents opted to forgo shelter rather than leave their pets).
- Lost all veterinary records and personal identifying information that would allow them to pick up pets even if they did know where to look.
- Lost all credit cards, cash, etc., that would allow them to pay for any reclaim fees imposed by shelters, veterinary care, and other pet related expenses.
- Once sheltered, had no transportation to personally go back to their homes and search for missing pets.
How this bill may make a difference for the BIPOC community:
- SB 172 codifies important protections directly into state law. Currently, Kentucky’s Emergency Management Plan is not accessible to the public and is not easily accessible by many stakeholders and decision makers. With protections codified into state law, SB 172 allows for added accountability for elected and appointed officials serving a racially and economically diverse range of legislative districts.
- SB 172 encourages the reduction of barriers disproportionately impacting the BIPOC community. If passed, direct return to owner protocols would mitigate transportation and financial barriers that would prevent people and pets from staying together. Though, it is not expressly stated, these protocols could also encourage shelters to waive reclaim fees required imposed on owners wishing to get their animals out of the shelter during times of natural disasters, and for other good causes in general. These outcomes would indirectly but positively influence the economic well-being of marginalized communities.
SB 172 prevents the pets within the BIPOC community from being unreasonably and disproportionally impounded and killed. Often, treasured and loved pets are all that disaster victims are left with. Having these pets die unnecessarily in shelters only compounds tragedy.
Bowling Green Human and Companion Animal Natural Disaster Impact Study
The study assesses the experiences, barriers, and issues of importance from companion animal owners of color living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, who have been affected by December 2021 tornados. In partnership with CARE’s Environmental Justice Division, we seek to help identify how to prevent and combat the unwanted effects of natural disaster scenarios.
CARE’S ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & POLICY TEAM
Our nation faces countless environmental challenges. Few of those challenges are being met from the perspective of BIPOC Americans and their pets who bear the heavy weight of climate-driven disasters. Nevertheless, CARE is committed to making change and supporting communities where we can. We hope to inspire other organizations and communities to do the same.