“Unnatural Disasters: The Impacts of Climate-related Emergencies on Wildlife, Livestock, and Companion Animals”

Monday, December 7, 2009
Washington, D.C.
As world leaders descend upon Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW; www.ifaw.org) today released Unnatural Disasters: The Impacts of Climate-related Emergencies on Wildlife, Livestock, and Companion Animals, a comprehensive report highlighting the immediate impacts of climate change on wildlife, livestock, and companion animals. The report calls on U.S. and world leaders to include effective and efficient animal emergency relief efforts in their climate change talks because of the likelihood that climate-related natural disasters will occur with increased frequency and intensity in the near future.

“The detrimental consequences of climate change for both human communities and animal populations around the globe are profound,” said Mayumi Sakoh, legislative assistant, IFAW and lead author of the report. “By inflicting additional pressures on the already stressed environment, climate change is causing an increase in climate-related natural disasters and irrevocable damage to the planet’s bionetworks. We must be equipped to mitigate the immediate impacts of these catastrophic events on both people and the animals upon which we rely.”

In September 2009, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated that climate change is accelerating at a much faster pace than was previously projected by scientists. With that comes an increase in the frequency and severity of disasters, dealing a heavy blow to wildlife, livestock, and companion animals. Detailing the connection between climate change and the pressing need for animal emergency preparedness and response, Unnatural Disasters arms decision-makers, the general public, and other interested parties with information and actions to address the direct impacts of climate change.

The recommendations that the report makes include:

• Congress should include provisions in upcoming new or recurring legislation that would authorize and appropriate resources for comprehensive animal emergency preparedness, response, and relief efforts prior to, during, and immediately following climate related disasters.

• The United Nations should achieve a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare that encourages people and governments to consider animals in disaster preparedness and response efforts surrounding climate-related disasters.

• Non-governmental organizations and private sector groups that provide humanitarian relief during and following natural disasters should develop partnerships with non-governmental organizations with expertise in animal emergency relief to exchange information and skills and collaborate on emergency relief efforts to minimize the suffering and loss of life to animals and communities.

“From hurricanes to oil spills, when catastrophe strikes, animals are often left to fend for themselves, resulting in extreme suffering or death,” added Sakoh. “Given the invaluable role pets, livestock and wildlife play in our lives and ecosystems, there is an urgent need to ensure that they are formally considered in disaster preparedness plans and response efforts.”

Editor’s Note:  Copies of Unnatural Disasters are available upon request.  For more information, to schedule an interview, or for still images, please contact Abby Berman at 646.695.7043 or abby@rosengrouppr.com.

About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
As one of the world's leading animal welfare organizations, IFAW has representation in 16 countries and carries out its animal welfare work in more than 40. IFAW works from its global headquarters in the United States and focuses its campaigns on improving the welfare of wild and domestic animals by reducing the commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats, and assisting animals in distress. IFAW works both on the ground and in the halls of government to safeguard wild and domestic animals and seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people. For more information on IFAW, visit www.ifaw.org; become a Facebook fan; follow IFAW on Twitter

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