Catastrophic fires in South Australia – RSPCA’s response and how you can help affected animals

December 24, 2019

Like so many South Australians, we’re shocked and saddened by the devastating bushfires gripping our state. Our hearts go out to the people, animals and businesses so badly affected over the past few weeks, as some fires continue to burn.

We’ve been inundated with calls and emails from you, our supporters, wanting to help both people and animals hard-hit by the fires. In response, we’ve launched a state-based appeal to help save impacted animals.

Donate to our Bushfire Appeal

Please click here to donate to our Bushfire Appeal and help South Australian animals affected by fires in our state.

We are also calling for volunteers to assist with food drops on Kangaroo Island. Please click here for full details.

Below, we detail our responses to the two major fires that have occurred so far in South Australia, our involvement in assisting, and ways you can help.

First response: Cudlee Creek Fires, Friday December 20th, 2019

On Friday, December 20th, we at RSPCA were ‘activated’ by Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) to assist with this crisis.

Six of our inspectors spent a difficult weekend in the Adelaide Hills, assisting communities devastated by the Cudlee Creek fires.

In the video below, you can see Regional Inspector Andre, who drove 4.5 hours from Whyalla so he could be here to lend a helping hand.

Sadly, much of our inspectors’ work involved humanely euthanasing hundreds of animals, many of them sheep and cattle, that simply could not escape the rapid inferno and were left horribly injured and maimed. The need for this continued for some time, as animals required assessment for effects of burns and smoke inhalation.

This is kind of work is terribly difficult for anyone, and especially for our inspectors, who are all true animal lovers. We thank them for their bravery and courage in facing what simply must be done to ease animal suffering.

Second response: Kangaroo Island Fires, Friday January 3rd, 2020

On Tuesday, January 7, RSPCA was again ‘activated’ by PIRSA to assist with the bushfire crisis on Kangaroo Island, which has affected much of the Flinders Chase National Park.

Since then, we have rotated inspectors, veterinarians and animal handlers to Kangaroo Island on a seven-day basis, assisting ground crews from PIRSA and South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM) with animal rescue, triage and treatment efforts across the island’s extensive fire ground.

We’ve received multiple inquires from kindhearted supporters who wish to know how they can assist us and affected animals. On January 24, we launched Stage 2 of our Emergency Response Plan, to ensure surviving native animals continue to receive life-saving veterinary care, food and water in the coming months.

If you would like to volunteer with our Kangaroo Island Emergency Response team, organising food and water drops for native animals, please head here.

How to help: affected animals in South Australia

ALL ANIMALS: RSPCA South Australia is doing all we can to protect the animals in threatened or affected areas. But once the active fire zones clear, that’s when the most challenging work begins. We are preparing for long-term rescue and rehabilitation efforts. You can donate our Bushfire Appeal to help South Australian animals. You can also see our call for volunteers here.

WILDLIFE: At the direction of PIRSA, South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM) has been activated to coordinate the wildlife response in our state. The most direct way to contribute to wildlife rescue efforts in fire-affected areas in South Australia is to make a donation to SAVEM here. If you encounter injured wildlife, you can call SAVEM’s hotline on 0477 055 233 for assistance.

LIVESTOCK: PIRSA is coordinating the response to fire-affected livestock in South Australia. A 24-hour livestock hotline has been set up by PIRSA for those seeking assistance with agistment and/or feed. Call 1800 255 556 or Livestock SA on 8297 2299.

DOMESTIC PETS: Anyone with pets needing emergency boarding can contact our RSPCA Lonsdale shelter on 1300 477 722 or the Animal Welfare League on 8348 1300 (but please note that space is limited). For assistance with injured and stray companion animals, please call SAVEM on 0477 055 233.

How to help: affected people and businesses in South Australia

CUDLEE CREEK APPEAL: The State Emergency Relief Fund (SERF) has been set up by the South Australian Government to help people directly affected by the devastating Cudlee Creek bushfires.

There are four ways to donate to the SERF:

  1. Electronic funds transfer to the State Emergency Relief Fund, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, BSB 065 266, Account 10020160, Description must state ‘donation’
  2. Credit card – visit the State Emergency Relief Fund BPoint payment website or dial 1300 276 468 (1300 BPOINT) and enter biller code 1002359
  3. Cash – go into any branch of the Commonwealth Bank and donate over the counter giving the details: BSB 065 266, Account 10020160
  4. Cheque – send to State Emergency Relief Fund, Donations, QA Finance, GPO Box 292, Adelaide SA 5001

KANGAROO ISLAND APPEAL: The Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Bushfire Fund is the official donation appeal for Kangaroo Island. Money raised through this fund will go directly into the hands of islanders who need it most, helping those directly impacted by the devastation caused by the fires with financial assistance to rebuild their lives, homes and businesses.

  •  BSB: 105 094
  • Account Number: 035 680 540
  •  Account Name: Mayoral Bushfire fund
  • For international deposits, enter Swift Code: SGBLAU2S

VINNES SA BUSHFIRE APPEAL: At the direction of the State Government, Vinnies SA has also set up a dedicated bushfire appeal to assist affected people. All donations will be directed to locals affected and will help them to renew, rebuild and restore. You can donate here.

FAQs about animals affected by bushfires

Who can I report stray/injured livestock to?

Any livestock injuries need to be reported to PIRSA by calling 1800 255 556.

Who can I report stray/injured wildlife to?

If you find a sick or injured native animal, call SAVEM’s hotline on 0477 055 233 for assistance.

What should I do if I find a stray/injured companion animal?

Please call either your local council to collect the animal, or (where possible) take it to a local veterinary clinic.

What preparations should I make for my pets in case of an emergency?

We recommend you create a Pet Emergency Plan. You can find full details on how to do that here.

What should I do if I must leave my pets behind during a bushfire emergency?

Pets should not be abandoned unless it is impossible to evacuate them. To avoid this situation, make a Pet Emergency Plan and consider evacuating your pets before the danger arises. If you are forced to leave your pets behind, be sure to use the following advice:

  1. Do not tether them as they will be unable to flee if danger is imminent.
  2. Provide food and water for at least one week and provide multiple sources of water.
  3. Ensure pets are properly identified (e.g. a collar with an ID tag and microchip).
  4. Leave a note on the front door or on your mailbox stating your mobile phone number, how many pets are located on the premises, their species, names and a photo.
  5. 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.
What if I have to leave my pets outside?
  1. Ensure there is plenty of water available from a source that does not rely on power or above ground pipes.
  2. 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).
  3. Do not shut horses in stables or small fenced yards.
  4. Do not place synthetic blankets on horses.

For more information, visit this page.

What can we do to help livestock that have been burnt by a fire?

Despite the best plans and preparation, sometimes horses, livestock and other animals are caught up in bushfires. Animals that have been burnt should be immediately assessed as to the extent of the burns and then, depending on the injuries, either treated or euthanased. ‘Euthanasia’ means humanely ending the life of an animal when it is in the interest of the animal’s welfare and using a technique that avoids further pain, suffering or distress. RSPCA Australia advocates that farm animals which have to be killed due to physical weakness or serious injury should be humanely and competently euthanased on site without delay.

Who should I speak to about post-bushfire care for animals?

Your veterinarian should be your first port of call. All animals that are assessed and not euthanased in the emergency and delayed phases should be put in a ‘hospital’ paddock or yard, where they can be regularly inspected and nursed.

For all animals, ensure:

  1. They are on the softest, most level ground available, especially if their feet are burnt.
  2. They have ready access to good-quality feed and water. Burnt animals are reluctant to move and usually do not feed for a few days. They should be given high-protein feeds such as quality lucerne or meadow hay.
  3. They are checked often to confirm they can move to water and can drink. Animals that are unable to drink must be euthanased.
  4. They have ready access to existing – or makeshift – shade.
  5. They are treated for worms, especially after rain.
  6. Check all animals regularly for signs of deterioration, in particular check for flystrike on burnt areas and feet. Treat as necessary.
  7. Affected sheep may benefit from long-acting antibiotics for secondary infections. Seek veterinary advice.

Pets can also be affected by fires, with smoke inhalation a common issue. If you have concerns your pets have been affected by smoke, seek advice from your local vet.

Thank you all for being such a caring and supportive community. It’s this type of hope and positivity that is so very needed right now. Remember, you can directly help South Australian animals affected by donating to our Bushfire Appeal.

If you have any further questions about active bushfires or bushfire safety, you can phone the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1800 362 361.

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19 thoughts on “Catastrophic fires in South Australia – RSPCA’s response and how you can help affected animals”

  1. Emily

    Hi, I’m an American married to a South Australian. My heart is breaking for the people and animals suffering all over Australia. Where can I donate that will most directly impact the assistance of wildlife and domestic animals in bushfire-affected areas? Thank you.

    1. Hi Emily, thanks so much for thinking of our state and affected wildlife in this crisis. PIRSA has activated South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM) to coordinate the wildlife rescue effort and are working with other groups in fire-affected regions. You can donate to them here:

  2. Vivi Toft Jensen

    I will help, i have put in a form and police clearance at RSPCA in Glenelg, but i haven’t hear anything!
    I want to help mot just sit still and watch.
    Hope to hear from you soon

  3. jennifer howard

    Hi, Safe Pets Safe families has been and can assist with fostering domestic pets and farm animals.

  4. Denise Inkel

    Hi what will happen to the dromadaires that Australia wants to kill by helicopter and planes because they drink water??? Specially when you know that they can go for one week without drinking? Is there an organisation that can take them to sanctuaries out of Australia. RSPCA you do a giant work if it was not of you nobody would do anything for the animals, Australia seems to have always been a senseless place for them. They can export livestock in horrible conditions, now they want to execute innocent animals for a stupid reason, they say that they drink the water used to extinguish the fires!!! It seems that the lesson is not understood and Australia is doomed if nobody changes attitude. I feel very sad for your country specially for the innocent beings that were and will be sacrificed. Is there somebody in the Hollywood Golden Globe artistic world that could take the lead and transport the animals to sanctuaries around the Planet. Noah’s Ark, it was done before. It takes very rich emphatic persons to do it but they exist, somebody needs to ask them. How can it be done, who can spread the word?

    1. Hi Denise, thank you for your message about this very sad situation. The current aerial shooting of camels is in response to serious and widespread camel welfare problems, including accounts of starving camels being attacked by dogs. It is heartbreaking to see these poor animals suffering so badly as a result of the drought conditions in northern South Australia.

      It is disappointing that animal management strategies to date have been poor, which allowed this terrible situation to develop. This has necessitated the aerial shooting of severely drought-affected camels, especially those in remote or inaccessible areas without adequate food and water. We at RSPCA will work with the government to ensure that population control programs are as humane as possible, target specific, effective and open to external oversight.

      Longer-term, RSPCA would like to see increased resources allocated to the development of non-lethal population control programs for camels and other animals. Most importantly, we urge government to implement an effective camel population management plan to ensure that this situation is not repeated in the future.

      For further information on the camel cull, we advise you to contact PIRSA. Thank you.

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  6. Eva Jedut

    Why do innocent must suffer for human greed? This is man made catastrophe via global warming. If you would focus on eco system more than on fossils fuel the earth would pay you back and Australia would flourish and prosper.

  7. Mike Owens

    Hi Me and my adult son would like to fly from California to Australia to help save or some of the wildlife effected by the horrific fires. We assume that the amount of animals that are coming in to be treated must be overwhelming and we’d like to help. But so far, all the the organizations that I’ve contacted are not accepting international volunteers. Only want donations instead. It’s hard to sit around and watch while millions of animals are dying! Where can we volunteer?

  8. Fran Bivona

    Can you please email an address where I can send a check to help the RSPCA in South Australia who are aiding the injured koalas? Thank you for the info and thank you for helping those poor, needy animals, God Bless

    1. Hi Fran, thanks so much for your interest in supporting our work with fire-affected animals on KI. If you’d like to send a cheque to donate to this cause, please write the following on the envelope:

      RSPCA South Australia, Bushfire Appeal
      GPO Box 2122
      Adelaide, 5001

      Thank you.

  9. Carol Stott

    I’ve already donated but wondered if you needed pouches for injured wildlife. I’m happy to sew things if they are needed.

    1. Hi Carol, thank you so much for donating. We currently have all the physical supplies we need on KI and no longer need pouches for wildlife. Thank you 🙂

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