Rescuing animals during disasters – EuropeSave human lives by saving animals before, during and after disasters
(The Hague, 13 October 2022) – A new report released today by IFAW finds that an increase in the frequency and severity of disasters in Europe requires critical policy changes to address the impact on animals.
Beyond Rescue: Animals in Disasters - Europe states that current humanitarian models of disaster management in Europe neglect the inclusion of animals in policies and planning, thus endangering the lives of people and animals.
“IFAW advocates for the inclusion of animals in disaster planning because we recognise the risks to both people and animals when it is neglected,” says Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Senior Program Officer of IFAW’s disaster response work in Europe.
“Responsibility for animal welfare in emergencies needs to be clearly allocated, and we need to scale up from personal preparedness measures to functional systems across all layers of government.”
Worldwide, disasters are escalating in frequency and severity, causing massive devastation. In Europe, severe flooding hit Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sicily in 2021, and summer heat waves and wildfires scorched France and other countries in southern Europe in 2021 and 2022.
“Such disasters wreak destruction on humans and animals alike, inflicting habitat loss, injury and death,” says Sissler-Bienvenu.
Research by the European Environment Agency shows that “between 1980 and 2020, climate-related extremes caused over 138,000 fatalities and economic losses totaling an estimated € 487 billion in the EU-27 Member States.” This includes the loss of animals, as animals are currently defined as ‘economic losses’.
At both European and national levels, there are existing frameworks to manage disaster risks and mitigate the impact on people and their property. However, animals are not included.
According to the report, more human lives will be saved by including animals in emergency plans. People often refuse evacuation orders if their pets cannot leave as well, endangering the lives of owners, animals and rescue workers.
Failure to consider wild animals in a disaster scenario can create a significant health problem through the possible transmission of zoonotic diseases that can be passed on to humans, including the contamination of drinking water by animal carcasses. In addition, animals that are injured or searching for food or shelter after extreme events may enter human-populated areas, endangering people and themselves.
Download the executive summary and full report here.
Note for editors
IFAW recommends integrating animal welfare into disaster management in the European Union (EU), and within EU funding through the following principles:
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