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Managing Your Animals in an Emergency

Your animals are your responsibility. It is up to you to plan ahead and to prepare for the safety and welfare of your pets, livestock or other animals well before a natural hazard affects your home, farm or property. By acting early you can prevent unnecessary danger and anxiety. Although individual needs will vary, the following advice is provided to help you decide the best plan for your circumstances and area.

Include your animals in emergency plans

Consider whether you will move your pets and other animals to a safer place on days of high risk or when a warning is issued. This may depend on whether you intend to stay or leave.

You can check with Councils or other agencies about any likely hazards, local emergency plans and what arrangements are in place regarding any temporary animal shelters and yards in times of major emergencies or disasters.

Some evacuation centres may not accept animals. It is advised that you check this with the centres in your area.

Regardless of what you plan, ensure that pets and animals are properly identified ie:name tag, microchip or brand, and that any stock registers are current and kept in a safe place.

The following phone numbers can be included in your emergency plan:

  • Your Vet;
  • Local animal welfare agencies;
  • Pet information and advisory services;
  • Help for injured or trapped native animals;
  • Your local Council(s).

Visit the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Pets and emergencies page for great advice on pets and emergency plans and contacts.

On days of high risk of bushfire, flood or severe storms consider the following

If moving animals to a safer place, do so early to avoid unnecessary risk to you and your animals. Remember that late evacuation can be very dangerous.

If you are staying home or on the property, or planning to return when a warning has been issued, you may need to bring pets in early as they have instincts about dangerous conditions and may run away or attempt to run away if afraid. If possible keep them indoors and separated in a quiet room with small, or preferably, no windows. Provide them with food and water. If you try to comfort them you may transfer your anxiety to them. It may be best to leave them alone whilst checking on them regularly.

If you are likely to be away from home, farm or property while an emergency warning is current, you may need to put your emergency plan into action and take precautions before you leave.

If moving pets to a safer place before a potential emergency

If pets are likely to be at risk, every effort should be made to arrange to take them to a safer area in advance. This might be with relatives, friends, animal boarding or agistment facilities or to a temporary animal shelter or evacuation centre which accepts animals.

Make sure that you supply:

  • Sufficient non-perishable pet food for several days along with food and water bowls;
  • A lead, carry cage, bag or box;
  • Kitty litter or old newspapers;
  • Any medications the pet may need and a first aid kit;
  • The animal’s medical history and vet contact details.

Allow for those animals which have different needs:

  • Small pets such as birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats/mice etc can be transported in cages or pillowcases (tied firmly at the top) or in secure boxes with small air holes.
  • Fish can be temporarily placed in a large wide-necked jar with a secure lid. The jar can be filled two thirds with water. Whilst travelling you can regularly blow through a straw in to the water to aerate it. Once stationary the lid can be removed.
  • Frogs and other amphibians can be transported in a small covered tub with 2.5cm of water in the bottom and air holes in the top.
  • Snakes and lizards can be placed in a container with a secure lid and air holes, or a pillowcase or sack.
  • Aviary birds and poultry are affected by smoke so you should make a hessian curtain to fit over the cage. Drop the curtain and wet it down.

If you can not take your animals with you

The RSPCA advises that animals should only be left behind when it is impossible to move them in advance or take them with you. The Society further advises that if animals must be left alone and are in danger of suffering a painful death, owners should attempt to have them humanely euthanased where possible.

If you must leave them please take the following precautions:

  • If possible leave your pets indoors.
  • If they have to be left outside do not tie them up.
  • Place pets in rooms with small or preferably no windows. Try and separate them in to different rooms where possible. Easily cleaned rooms such as the bathroom, laundry and toilet are recommended. Avoid rooms which have hazards such as large windows, hanging plants or large picture frames.
  • Provide adequate food and water in large heavy bowls that can not be tipped over. A slow dripping tap can supply a constant source of water.
  • Birds must eat daily so it is recommended to use food dispensers that regulate the amount of food.
  • In the case of flood, position a heavy chair or crate to allow access to a higher refuge such as benches, vanity units or shelves where adequate food and water should be left.
  • Proved toilet litter where appropriate and if possible provide separate bedding for each pet.
  • Make sure all pets are properly identified.
  • Tell a friend or relative where you can be contacted and where your pets are and what their needs are.
  • Leave a note for the emergency services indicating what animals they will encounter in the home, including how many and where and how you can be contacted.

Caring for livestock and other farm animals

When developing an emergency plan consider the following:

  • Check whether local arrangements cater for the relocation of livestock.
  • Coordinate the relocation of domestic animals and livestock with neighbours, friend or livestock associations as early as possible.
  • Fit gates on internal fences to avoid moving stock along public roads.
  • Mark gates and water locations on a map of your property. Have this map available in case someone has to move stock for you.
  • If an emergency warning is current or on days of high risk, consider moving stock into a safe area before leaving the property for any length of time.
  • In the case of a bushfire move the animals to a closely grazed or ploughed paddock with drinking water, steel fencing and preferably shade. Remove all rugs, halters, fly veils and any other equipment on the animal. If embers land on these it can cause the item to burn resulting in serious burns on the animal. Poultry can be placed in a temporary pen.
  • In the case of a bushfire do not shut the animals in stables, sheds or small yards. Keep the doors closed to prevent the animal from running into their perceived ‘safe’ area. The animals are likely to suffer minimal burns if given maximum space to move around in. Open all gates within the property to allow maximum space for the animals to move around in.
  • In the case of a flood move the animals to high ground with adequate natural feed. Additional food will be required for stock stranded for extended periods of time.
  • In the case of a sever storm place the animals under solid cover if possible eg; a sturdy barn, shed or covered pen.
  • NEVER allow the animals to leave your property to run loose on the road or public land. This will pose an increased risk to their own safety as they will then be in danger of the traffic. They will also pose a risk to motorists which will then leave you legally responsible.

After a disaster

Surroundings will have changed following a disaster which will make some animals disorientated, frightened or possibly aggressive. Take care when releasing them doing so in a confined area to avoid them escaping.

Keep a close watch of your pet when you return home. If you believe your pet is suffering behavioural problems as a result of the disaster you should seek advice from your vet or a professional animal behaviourist.

If your animal is missing as a result of the disaster check with your local and neighbouring Councils, Animal Welfare shelters, Veterinary Clinics, refuge shelters and evacuation centres, animal boarding facilities etc.

Act Safely

Your safety and that of your family is paramount. Don't risk human life trying to find and protect pets.

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