How to help animals in disasters; bushfire safety for pets

As Australia faces another bushfire season, we share everything you need to know about bushfire safety for pets and livestock.

sheep on farm surrounded by bushfire smoke for Animal Friendly Life preparing animals for bushfires
Farm animals are amongst the biggest bushfire casualites (image: Unsplash)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Bushfire safety for pets essentials

  • Make sure your pets are microchipped and details are up to date;
  • Ensure you’ve got their registration and vaccination papers handy at all times;
  • Keep their carrier handy in an easy-to-reach location;
  • Pack a kit to keep with carrier that includes items such as towels, comfort toys or blankets, leashes and harnesses, supply of food and water, as well as all their medication.
RFS volunteer doing a hazard reduction burn in Sydney
RFS volunteers conducted hazard reduction burns last month (image RFS)

Owners urged to be prepared and plan their bushfire safety for pets and livestock

Australia has experienced bushfire and flood emergencies in recent years that led to significant loss of live, homes, and livelihoods.

As a result, countless animals were killed after families were forced to flee their homes, leaving their pets behind.

Sadly, many of the farm animals that were left to fend for themselves ended up drowning.

As Australia faces another (early) bushfire season, the importance of being prepared has never been more critical.

While many of us have plans in place for our families, it’s crucial not to forget about our pets and livestock.

Devastating impact of bushfires

In recent years, bushfires have not only increased in frequency but also in intensity.

The devastating impact on communities and wildlife has been a wake-up call for all Australians.

Sadly, it appears the bushfire season has started even earlier this year, with dozens of fires breaking out across the country in recent weeks.

As we brace ourselves for another challenging season, pet owners are now becoming more proactive in ensuring the safety of their animals.

Kangaroo surrounded by burnt land for animals in bushfires.
Kangaroo with joey is surrounded by burnt land and devastation (image Joanne McCarthur via Unsplash)

Why pet safety during bushfire emergency matters

Pets are an integral part of our families, offering companionship and unconditional love.

In times of emergency, their well-being is often as concerning to us as that of any other family member.

However, pets have specific needs that are crucial to address, especially when dealing with the unpredictability of natural disasters like bushfires.

Dog in crate during bushfire emergency evacuation for pet safety during bushfires Animal Friendly Life
Pet owners should have items, such as crates, accessible in case of bushfire emergency evacuations (image Unsplash)

Include animals in your bushfire disaster plan

horse on farm surrounded by bushfire for bushfire animal safety

Pet owners are encouraged to have a disaster plan that includes their pets in place in case of an emergency.

Simple things like having an emergency pet kit ready can make the difference in a life-threatening situation.

“It’s crucial to have a plan for your animals before disaster strikes,” said Ben Pearson, country director for World Animal Protection.

“While there is an outpouring of compassion for animals, many people are unaware of how to help them.

“Without a plan, people may make panicked decisions that threaten the safety of their animals and their family.

Download World Animal Protection’s free disaster guide on their website.

Emergency survival items for pets

Food: At least three days’ worth of non-perishable food.

Water: At least three days’ worth.

Medicines: Store in a waterproof container.

Veterinary/medical records: Keep copies in a watertight container.

First aid kit: Extra cotton bandage rolls, bandage tapes, scissors, tweezers, and latex gloves.

Blanket/bedding: Familiar items to reduce stress.

Sanitation: Newspapers, paper towels, plastic bags, gloves, and household bleach for cleaning.

Pet identification and equipment essentials

Collar or tag with your and your pet’s details.

Register and microchip your pet.

Store a current photograph of your pet in a waterproof container.

Sturdy lead, harness, or muzzle.

Cages or carriers for safe transport.

Helping animals after a disaster

Planning for disaster is vital, but it’s also important to have a plan to help animals recover after an event.

World Animal Protection’s tips to help transition animals back to normality

  • Clean water sources: dams or ponds that your pets drink from might be contaminated, so try to avoid them drinking or going into them.
  • Clear hazards on your property so that debris has gone before moving your pets back in.
  • Create a calm environment with their favourite toys and blankets to reduce stress.
  • Monitor your pets for any injuries they may have sustained, and contact a vet if you are worried about an injury or their behaviour.
  • Re-stock your disaster planning kit, if you don’t already have one, you can download your plan today.
  • Review and improve your disaster plan!
  • Update or replace their ID tag if details to have most recent details.

For further information, NSW SES has some great tips on making an animal emergency plan.

Heartwarming animal rescues from Australian flood disasters

Many heartwarming stories of people rescuing and caring for animals in floods have emerged from the devastation.

MP for the Animal Justice Party, Mark Pearson, says it’s great to see how much the community cares for animals.

“We’ve seen Australians go above and beyond for animals by saving pets, farmed animals, and wild animals alike,” Pearson says.

Pearson says it’s also great to see people caring for farm animals just as much as pets like cats and dogs.

“I saw a government document about the floods referring to animals and livestock separately,” says Pearson.

“Most Australians don’t see a distinction, and don’t consider livestock as just objects or stock to be lost.”

NSW SES caring for animals in floods
NSW SES attend to cows stranded by flood water (credit NSW SES)

“All animals suffer in natural disasters, just like humans, and we as a society are really starting to realise that,” Pearson says.

“It’s inspiring to see so many incredible stories of people rescuing not only dogs and cats, but koalas, kangaroos, horses and cows.

“I thank the volunteers working to save lives, but I want to remind the public to never put themselves in danger.”

Animal Justice Party MP Mark Pearson animals in floods
MP Mark Pearson from Animal Justice Party 

Mark calls on Australians to have a plan in place for caring for their animals in a disaster.

“This is a good reminder for everyone to have a plan of action in place for saving the animals in your care.”

NSW SES caring for animals in floods
NSW SES rescue a horse from rising flood water (credit NSW SES)