During a disaster, you are responsible for your own animals.
The danger is being ill-prepared to protect both yourself and your animals. This can endanger the lives of both if, for example, you evacuate too late or not at all.
Australia’s National Strategy for Disaster Resilience states "communities should be empowered to share responsibility for disaster resilience". Animals provide an avenue to connect communities, and to enable community members to work together in disaster preparedness and planning.
Image by Chris
Wild Icelandic Horses
Image by Sam Carter
Image by Virginia Long
Cow and Calf
Cow and Piglet
in a Disaster
Aware and Prepare
Be aware that your animals may behave differently in an emergency. Animals, like humans, can feel stressed and anxious in an emergency. They may also pick up on your stress. Animals will be affected by environmental changes that occur in an emergency — like floodwater, smoke, heat, flames, loud noises and sirens.
When animals are frightened they can become aggressive, can bite, scratch or kick (even if this is not part of their normal behaviour). If animals are anxious, they could hide, run away or be difficult to move.
Prepare your animals early.
• With smaller animals you can put them in their crate, or in a room, where they are safe and contained.
• With larger animals, you can load them on a float or trailer, or move them close at hand in preparation for when you leave.
• If your animals are secure and safe, this will leave you free to take care of other members of your family. If you act early your WHOLE family will be ready to leave when you need to move to safety
How you can prepare as an animal owner
We all treat our animals to be family. In light of this, it will affect how quickly and easily you can evacuate if there is an emergency. Your close bond will lead you to want to save them in an emergency — even if that means putting their own safety at risk. Therefore, it is important to be prepared, and to have plans for what you will do in an emergency, like a bush fire, flood or severe storm. To keep your animals safe in an emergency, make them a part of your plan. Remember, you are responsible for your animals. Don’t expect someone to come and rescue them for you. Have a plan for ALL your animals. You need to plan for the animals you can take with you and any animals you may need to leave behind
Your best approach is to: • understand your level of risk • have a plan and be as self-reliant as you can • discuss your plan with family, friends and neighbours • be alert to worsening weather conditions and official warnings • identify options to keep your animals safe • act early
What should your plan include for your animals? • Where to go and how to get there — planning to stay with family or friends is often the most comfortable and convenient option. • What to take for your animals — prepare a ‘Grab and Go’ kit. • How to identify, secure and transport your animals. • If you have large animals like horses and livestock, a plan to relocate them early to a safer area.
How you can prepare as an animal owner
Develop a plan and include all your animals. This is a plan for what you would do for your family, including your animals, in the event of severe storms and floods, bush fires, heat waves and other extreme weather events. Remember: In an emergency you are responsible for the welfare of your animals. You are also responsible for managing your animals so they do not present a danger to other people or animals.
Remember to practice your plan at least once a year.
Where are you taking your animals?
Decide well in advance the safest locations for your animals. • Discuss with your friends and family if you can stay with them in an emergency and if you can bring your animals. • Talk with your pony or equestrian club or reach out to animal groups on how you can support one another in an emergency. Create a network to communicate and act if you need to relocate your larger animals (e.g. horses, alpacas). • Work with neighbours and friends to plan together.
• How you will transport your animals? Will you need to make more than one journey? How long will it take? • Do you have a cage for each cat? Do you have a collar and leash or crate for each dog? Does your dog need a muzzle? • Have you practised loading your horses onto a float? • Do you own a float? Is it registered and well maintained? If not, can you borrow a float?
GRAB & GO KIT for your Animals
Prepare a ‘Grab and Go’ kit Prepare an evacuation kit for all your animals. You should be able to maintain your animals for 3 to 7 days. Consider restraint and transport, food, water, toileting, medications, first aid, housing and bedding: • cages or pet carriers for each animal; or • muzzle and leash; or lead rope and head collar for each animal • 3-7 days of food and water for each animal • bowl or feed bucket • can opener and spoon • woollen blanket, towels or bedding • animal medications and first aid items • take a photo of your pet’s vaccination certificate • litter and litter tray for cats • poo bags for dogs • toys • and whatever else you feel is essential for the first 3 to 7 days.
Have you prepared Identification tags?
Permanently identify your animals. This will help reunite you and your animals if separated during an emergency. • Microchips are best for most animals. • Take clear photos of your animals showing any distinct markings. • Place a collar on your smaller animals with your name and phone number. • Place ID tags or labels on any pet carriers. • Horses can have emergency contact information attached to their mane through a tag.
Store your ‘Grab and Go’ kit where it’s easy to locate.
If you can’t store everything — have a checklist of what you need to grab before you go!
What happens if you are not home?
When developing a good plan, be aware that you might not be at home. When an emergency strikes you could be at work, on holidays or restricted from getting home (e.g. road closures).
Make sure: • your neighbours, friends and family know your plan • you have a list of people you can call who are willing and able to help relocate or evacuate your animals if you are not at home. • spare keys to your house, shed, padlocked gates etc are available for others to use if necessary. • everyone who lives, works or agists at your property knows your plan. Remember that in an emergency phone lines can be down and people might be hard to reach. Talking about your plan with family, friends and neighbours BEFORE an emergency gives you the best chance to keep your animals safe
What if you can’t take all your animals with you??
Sometimes you may not be able to take your animals with you. Be prepared to give them the best chance to stay safe.
• Leave indoor pets inside in separate rooms with small or no windows. • Ensure all animals have access to feed and fresh water in a heat resistant container or trough for at least 3-7 days as you may not be able to return to your property.
• Ensure all animals can be identified, such as with brands, microchips, tags or have photos of distinctive markings in
case they become lost. A mobile number written on both sides of large animals can assist. • For stock, horses or non-indoor pets, prepare a safe paddock or refuge. • If a safer refuge is unavailable, fix internal gates in an open position or cut internal fencing. This can give large animals opportunity to escape danger. • Allow outdoor animals to roam freely. Do not tether them.
• NEVER open the external gates to your property. Animals loose on external roads are at great danger to themselves, other drivers and emergency services. • Remove rugs, halters, and if possible, metal shoes, as they may be flammable, melt, cause burns or snag
Create a bushfire refuge
• Provide multiple solid water troughs.
• Identify and then clear away any obstacles that could burn or entangle your animals.
• Heavily graze or plough a paddock to remove fuel.
• Use low flammability hedges, walls/buildings or earth banks to provide protection from radiant heat.
• Move shelters such as dog kennels or cages out of direct sunlight.
• Never leave animals restrained in direct sunlight.
• Provide extra water, and if your water supply relies on power, make sure you have a back-up power supply.
• Contain livestock in paddocks with adequate shade for
every animal and watch for signs of heat stress