"Not without my Mr. Whiskers!"

Well, it’s official: according to the United States House of Representatives, pets now have nearly equal standing to human beings, when it comes to the value of their lives.

Last night, the House passed a bill that mandates states include plans for dealing with evacuating people’s pets in the case of a disaster, or the federal government will not allow the states to receive FEMA grants.

Part of this is almost understandable. The bill covers household pets and service animals, and I think that we can give some serious consideration to the latter group. But let’s show a little common sense and some priorities. I can quite easily see a case where an evacuation bus (one not left to rust, unused, in the flood waters) being filled to 3/4 capacity with people, and the rest of the space filled with various cats, dogs, snakes, birds, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, mice, lizards, and whatever else that people will insist on bringing, citing their rights under the law. Not only am I quite certain that the people left behind to make room for the pets will be understanding, but the animals will set aside their normal predator/prey relationships and simply all bark, meow, growl, or hiss “Kumbayah” together on the bus as they travel to safety.

I know at least one person who will disagree with this, as we’ve discussed it before, but I know one thing: if this meaure passes into law, I’m adding one more ingredient to my disaster kit: a bottle of antifreeze. A judicious application of some ethylene glycol should do wonders about freeing up evacuation space for more human beings.

Here’s MY pet evacuation plan: pets will be considered an item of “personal property,” and each evacuee will be allowed a equal amount of personal property to bring with them — the specifics to be determined by circumstances. For buses and the like, the “one carryon” rule of air travel seems applicable. If there is available space, then they can bring more. People with fewer items can “give away” their allotment to others. But if there are more people than space, then the allotted amount goes to exactly zero, and Fluffy and Buddy can join the piles of family photos and computers and other personal property to be left behind.

I do not consider myself a cruel human being. But when it comes down to a matter of life or death, I will put the life of a human being — even Ted Kennedy — over that of any animal. If there’s room for pets, then fine, they can come along. But to give them a standing nearly equal with people is just insane.

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