Natural disasters

Animals are often caught up in disasters along with people, so veterinarians have an important role in disaster response.

While animals in the wild are well adapted to the extremes of the Australian environment, they often fall victim during extreme disasters such as bushfires. Farm animals and other large animals like horses are vulnerable during disasters as they can’t flee the danger.

Veterinarians play an important role in the aftermath in assessing which animals can be treated effectively and humanely putting down the more severely injured.

Evacuees are often very concerned about their family pets – owners might be desperate to keep them nearby in emergency accommodation, or worried about their survival. Those pets that do survive need to be reunited with their owners, and a local veterinarian is often an integral part of this process.

After being involved in the response to the 2009 Victorian bushfires, the AVA wants these issues placed on the agenda of disaster planning activities in every jurisdiction. Since then, AVA has taken on both formal and informal roles to support animal welfare responses by state and territory governments. We coordinate preparedness training for vets when required and communicate between government response agencies and veterinary volunteers when emergencies occur.

In 2013, the AVA was part of the committee that developed the National planning principles for animals in disasters under the auspices of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. The National planning principles for animals in disasters outline all the key considerations for government at all levels to include animals and welfare consideration in disaster preparedness, response and recovery planning. These principles were subsequently adopted by the Australia-New Zealand Emergency Management Committee (ANZEMC). ANZEMC is the top-level committee reporting to the policy and emergency management ministers standing council.

AVA regularly communicates with animal owners and vets about how to plan ahead to protect and care for animals and veterinary practices in the event of a natural disaster.

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