Just as we need to prepare our family and property in times of emergencies and natural disasters we also need to prepare our animals. After human safety, the welfare of our animals should be your most important consideration in the event of a natural disaster.
Thunder can be very distressing for pets. To keep them safe and prevent them from running, keep them calm indoors with sufficient running space and access to food and water. A thundershirt for your dog or cat is also a great way of keeping them calm from anxiety in stressful situations such as thunderstorms.
In the event that your pet does become lost during a storm, please click here to search for found animals in RSPCA South Australia’s shelters, and for more information on finding your lost pet.
Extreme Heat Wave
There are steps you can take to help protect your pets against heat stress, dehydration and possible collapse. Heat stress can also be avoided in farm animals and wildlife by taking appropriate action. Also, animals should not be transported during high temperatures unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
In the 2009 Victorian bushfires, lives were lost when people made the decision not to evacuate because they did not want to leave their pets. Many pets also perished because they were not evacuated in time. It is up to you to plan ahead and to be prepared before an emergency happens to ensure the safety of yourself and your pets.
In January 2015, a major emergency was declared as bushfires broke out near Sampson Flat in the Adelaide Hills. This was a reminder that the threat to South Australian’s is real.
By acting early, you can avoid danger, panic and potentially fatal situations. Although individual needs will vary, the information on this page will help you to plan for the safety of yourself and your pets in emergencies.
The Pet Emergency Plan initiative is funded by the Natural Disaster Resilience Program, and has been developed by RSPCA South Australia in partnership with the Commonwealth and State Government of South Australia. The initiative is designed to ensure that South Australian pet owners are well prepared to protect themselves and their pets in emergencies.
Three Steps to Your Pet Emergency Plan
1. Include Pets in your Emergency Survival Plan
- Determine where your pets will be relocated to if you need to evacuate. This may be a boarding facility or a family member or friend located in a safe area. Keep in mind that the premise may have specific requirements – for example, boarding facilities require that pets are up-to-date with vaccinations.
- Train your pets to be settled in a cage / carrier / crate / horse float.
- Get pets accustomed to car trips.
- Keep vaccinations up to date and keep the certificate in a safe place.
- Ensure that cats and dogs are microchipped and have an ID tag including their name and your mobile phone number.
- Ensure that contact details are up-to-date on the microchip register. Dogs should also be registered with your local council.
- Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit for each pet in advance.
- Schedule a time to practice your plan.
Late evacuation can be dangerous. To avoid unnecessary risks to you and your pets, move them to a safe place as soon as possible. If you know an evacuation order could occur in the near future, consider moving your pets into temporary accommodation in a safe area well before there is any need to evacuate. Having your pets spend a short time away is better than taking the risk of not being able to take them if evacuation orders are issued.
2. Prepare your Pet Emergency Kit
Preparing a pet emergency kit is an essential part of your planning process. It will ensure that you have everything you need in order to activate your plan quickly. The kit should include;
- Registration certificates.
- Vaccination certificates.
- Transportation equipment (cages / carriers / crates / horse floats etc.).
- Cat litter and tray.
- Poo bags for dogs.
- ID tag (including pets name and your mobile phone number), collars, leads, harnesses, saddles etc.
- Food and water bowls, and at least one week’s supply of non-refrigerated food.
- Medications and clear instructions for treatment of any medical conditions.
- Blankets / bedding / nesting material.
- Toys / enrichment devices.
- Photograph of your pets (including names) in sealed plastic bags.
- Contact details for your vet, local animal shelter, local council and alternative animal accommodation facility.
3. Practice your Survival Plan
Practicing your emergency survival plan is a vital part of your preparation. Practice will help you to refine your plan, and prevent panic in the event of a real emergency.
Your Pet Emergency Plan should form a key part of your overall Bushfire Survival Plan. For information on preparing your Bushfire Survival Plan, click here.
Activating Your Pet Emergency Plan
- Small pets should be contained within the home at the first sign of an emergency. This ensures they are close at hand if you make the decision to evacuate.
- Phone ahead to confirm arrangements with the safe location you have designated in your emergency plan.
- Pack your Pet Emergency Kit in your vehicle.
- Allow additional time for the special needs of some pets;
- Carry birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice or other pocket pets in cages or in secure boxes with small air holes.
- Put fish in a large wide-necked jar with a secure lid. Fill the jar two-thirds with water. Regularly blow through a straw into the water to aerate it.
- Frogs need a small covered tub with 2.5cm of water and air holes in the top.
- Snakes and lizards need a container with a secure lid and air holes. They may also be transported in a sack or pillowcase that has been securely fastened at the opening.
- As poultry and aviary birds are easily affected by smoke, make a hessian covering to fit the cage. To use, wet down the covering and secure around the outside of the cage.
If You Must Leave Your Pets Behind
Pets should not be abandoned unless it is impossible to safely evacuate them. To avoid this situation, consider evacuating your pets before the danger arises (e.g. when advised of predicted extreme fire risk weather). If you are forced to leave your pets behind, be sure to follow the advice below;
- Do not tether pets (i.e. tie them up) as they will be unable to flee if danger is imminent.
- Provide food and water for at least 1 week in accessible places and in more than one container that can’t be tipped over.
- Ensure pets are properly identified (e.g. a collar with an ID tag and microchip).
- Leave a note on the front door or on your mail box stating your mobile phone number, how many pets are located on the premises, their species, names and a photo.
- Birds will require food dispensers that regulate the amount of food provided at any one time. Ideally these dispensers will be provided for all pets.
- In the case of flood, position a heavy chair or crate to allow access to a higher refuge such as a bench, vanity unit or shelf where adequate food and water should be left.
If possible, leave your pets indoors:
- Leave your pets in a safe, secure room. Ideally this room would have no windows, and must have adequate air (e.g. a big bathroom).
- Avoid rooms with hazards such as large windows, hanging plants or large picture frames.
- Don’t confine dogs and cats in the same space.
If you leave your pets outside:
- Ensure there is plenty of water available from a source that does not rely on power or above ground pipes.
- In a bushfire, move pets to a closely grazed or ploughed paddock (preferably around the homestead) with drinking water, steel fencing and preferably shade (Poultry can be placed in a temporary pen).
- In a flood, move pets to high ground with adequate natural feed. Additional feed may be required for stock stranded for extended periods.
- In a severe storm (including hail) or a cyclone, place pets under solid cover (e.g. sturdy barn / shed or covered pen).
- Do not shut horses in stables or small fenced yards. Sand arenas, grazed down paddocks or similar bare areas are best.
- High visibility pet coats and horse rugs with your mobile phone number can also be helpful to assist in the relocation of lost pets.
- Do not place synthetic blankets on your horses.
- Provide a minimum of 5 days’ supply of hay or ensure access to pasture.
Further Information to Support Your Planning Process
- SA Government – Emergencies and Safety
- Country Fire Service (CFS) – Prepare For Bushfire
- Country Fire Service (CFS) – Bushfire Survival Plan
- State Emergency Service (SES) – Heatsafe
- Alert SA
- Bureau of Meteorology – SA Weather and Warnings
- Horse SA – Emergency
- PIRSA – Livestock Safety In Bushfires
- Australian Veterinary Association – Animals and Natural Disasters