I Found A Way to help animals in disasters
Recently I attended the Australian and NZ Disaster Management conference in Brisbane.
For the first time an ‘Animals in Disasters’ stream was included in the conference which was a welcome move. Animal welfare organisations including RSPCA Queensland, WSPA and IFAW came together to address the problem that animals are often forgotten in disaster response, and there is no national plan to address this in Australia.
There are so many reasons to remember the animals in emergencies.
People and animals are intrinsically connected and many people rely on animals, particularly livestock for income. Most people with pets consider them part of their family and often won’t evacuate without them – as so tragically demonstrated during Hurricane Katrina.
The heart-rending story of a nine year old boy who wasn’t allowed to board a bus with his dog "Snowball" made international news and was a catalyst for the creation of the US PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transport) Act which says that pets need to be taken into account during disaster recovery.
Pets can also play a vital role in the period following a disaster. A recent survey, revealed at the conference, of people who had lived through a disaster showed that 73% of people said pets played an important role in their recovery, providing emotional comfort and also a practical focus, which people often need in the aftermath of a disaster.
And we must remember the wildlife.
Wild animals often come bottom of the rung in an emergency response as no-one ‘owns’ or is responsible for them, and they supposedly have no direct economic or emotional value. But people care greatly about the fate of wild animals in disasters as demonstrated by the famous case of "Sam" the Koala during the 2009 bushfires.
Provisions need to be made to rescue, treat and rehabilitate wildlife after disasters – which is often a long process. If they are lucky enough to escape a fire their habitat and food is often destroyed, and they have no means of survival.
By finding a way to help all animals in disasters we are also helping people and communities.