|Are your Pets part of your Emergency Plan?|
In the event of any natural disaster it is important to have a plan of action, when you are faced with the threat of fire. Following these important strategies will give you the best chance of keeping your pets safe and that you will be reunited with should you somehow get separated.
On high risk days, plan to relocate to a low risk area or leave your pets with family or friends living in low risk areas. Make arrangements at boarding facilities for dog/cat/rabbit/guinea pig day-care or alternatively, if your workplace will allow it, take your pet to work with you. On high risk days, do not let your pets out unsupervised, as they may take fright and run away. If you choose to keep your pet with you and remain at home confine them to a safe area in the house such as the laundry.
If people are evacuated in the upcoming fire season, Animal Aid recommends that they keep their dogs and small caged animals with them wherever possible. However, we recommend that they place cats in emergency accommodation at a shelter, boarding cattery or veterinary clinic. This is due to the difficulties in containing cats and the owner's ability to provide them with a good quality of life while confined in a carrying cage.
It is important to have your pets microchipped and registered with your Council which will provide you with the best chance of being reunited as this form of identification cannot be removed or misplaced. If your animals are microchipped, then you must ensure that your contact details, particularly your mobile phone number and second contact, are current. With Council registration, your animal must wear its tag whenever it is off your property. During bushfires, telephone poles burn and landlines become inoperative; which means that your mobile phone is the best form of contact. To check your pets microchip details visit Central Animal Records at www.car.com.au (phone 03 9706 3187) or the Australian Animal Registry at www.aar.org.au (phone 02 9704 1450).
Leaving a collar on your dog on high risk day, will help you catch your pet if you have to leave your home in a hurry. Remember that even though your dog may normally love going for trips in the car, during a disaster they may become fearful and nervous. Many owners told us that while they were preparing to escape from the Black Saturday fire front, their animals took fright and ran away before owners could secure them in the car. This resulted in some owners having to leave their animals behind.
Ensure that your pets' vaccinations are up to date and keep a copy of their vaccination certificate and any medical records in your pre-packed emergency kit. If you should need to house a pet in emergency accommodation, or a boarding facility you will need to provide proof of current vaccinations to these organizations before admission. Dogs are required to have a C5 vaccination and cats a F3 vaccination.
If you choose to evacuate animals, do so as early as possible. This is for your safety and theirs. Most livestock are prey animals and so their main response to fear is to run. The smell of smoke may cause a horse to panic and become difficult to load, or cause them to injure themselves in the float. Floating a horse in a rush as fire approaches should not be part of your disaster plan.
For animals that cannot be moved, the provision of a cleared area such as a ploughed, slashed or well eaten out paddock will provide a refuge from fire and improve the animals' chances of survival. You can further increase their chance of survival by fitting internal gates within your property, which can be opened, allowing animals to move away from the path of the fire or flood.
Livestock in general are at risk of serious hoof injuries and damage from heat. This risk is increased if the horses are wearing metal shoes, which will conduct the heat into their feet. Therefore, metal shoes should be removed from horses that will not be evacuated. If flooding is likely to be the issue allow the animals’ access to higher ground.
Animals need to remain hydrated during bushfires. Ensure that water is available in heat resistant containers in the paddocks and remember that plastic containers melt in fires. During flood, water sources can become contaminated, make sure that you have a safe source of water for your livestock to drink from.
As soon as it is safe after the fire has passed, check animals for injuries and treat them as soon as possible. Be especially aware that the animals may be suffering from smoke inhalation, the effects of which may only become apparent some hours after exposure. Smoke affected animals may display breathing issues due to irritation of the mouth and throat, affected animals will require softer food than usual.
How you can help
Use the 'Animal Evacuation Declaration form' to identify if you have evacuated the property and if you have either taken your animals with you or had to leave them behind. This information may prevent rescue workers wasting time looking for animals that have been evacuated. The Declaration should be completed and taped to a window near the front door, where it can be easily seen. Identifying where animals have been left, should they not have been evacuated, this will ensure that they receive assistance as rapidly as possible.
While Animal Aid is always here to help, the reality is that if a disaster occurs during peak period such as Christmas, emergency accommodation at any shelter or boarding facility will be very limited.
Animal Aid locations
Animal Aid played a large part in the many lives that were affected by the Black Saturday Fires. In preparation for the coming fire season (and with the knowledge that many other natural disasters could affect our local area) Animal Aid are ready to assist.
Other useful sources of information for disaster planning for animals include:
Victorian State Emergency Service 132 500
Remember - It is possible that you may be evacuated for an extended period of time, or that you may lose everything so be prepared for the worst case scenario to eventuate.