Friday, October 25, 2013

Improving the way animals are cared for in natural disasters

A hungry possum affected by the fires. Image courtesy South Penrith Veterinary Clinic.
As bushfires continue to burn throughout New South Wales it is impossible not to consider the animal victims - companion animals, wildlife and livestock. Its important not to get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all - there are still plenty of positive things that we can do. If you aren't close to the fireground consider donating to groups that have been helping animals, including the RSPCA and WIRES.

If you are close to the fireground and an injured critter wanders into your backyard, take it to your nearest veterinarian (in the case of companion animals may can be re-traced to their owners via microchip). 

Veterinary clinics close to the firegrounds have been inundated with animals. Dr Robert Johnson from South Penrith Veterinary Clinic posted a video (click here) of a hungry little possum in the Springwood fires.

Image courtesy South Penrith Veterinary Clinic.
Image courtesy South Penrith Veterinary Clinic.
Image courtesy South Penrith Veterinary Clinic.

Image courtesy South Penrith Veterinary Clinic.This beautiful little green tree snake, from Heather Glen Road in Winmalee, can't be returned to its home as the area is completely burnt out. 
[Spare a thought for the staff at South Penrith Veterinary Clinic and other clinics in areas surrounded by the fires. Dr Johnson, Dr Jane Roffey and their team - Robyn, Kathryn, Jess, Natasha and Parice - have been working a full hospital, with only one paying customer - the rest are rescued animals and boarders whose owners have been evacuated due to fires. Dr Johnson wanted to extend his thanks to people who had offered help - from Provet to clients and members of the community].

The NSW Department of Primary Industries is seeking to enhance the way we care for animals during natural disasters and are hosting a series of regional workshops on this topic.
Everyone who is responsible for animals must have information, guidelines and tools to help them prepare for a natural disaster before their animals need to be rescued or, worse, are injured or killed as a result of a disaster.

The cost to the community and to individuals due to lost production, replacement of livestock, veterinary services, disruption to our food supply and emotional loss due to natural disasters is enormous. And the suffering endured by productive, recreational, companion and native animals is heartbreaking.
One vital way of caring for our animals and preparing for their welfare before a natural disaster is to improve the way we engage with people who own or manage animals – in commercial, companion and recreational contexts. Because native animals are an irreplaceable resource unique to Australia, their welfare is of course equally important.
A swamp wallaby is brought into care.
They are holding a series of half-day workshops in regional centres to determine what is already being done to care for animals before and during natural disasters, identify stakeholders and their needs, examine the role of emergency services and other agencies in animal welfare and work out what is the best approach.

If you have any experience please consider attending these workshops - being a voice for animals now will greatly enhance their chances of survival in the future. For dates and times of the workshop, please click here for the full PDF.