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The preparedness and evacuation behaviour of pet owners in emergencies and natural disasters

  • Macquarie University and Enduring Advantage Consulting


This research describes the preparedness and the actual, or anticipated, evacuation behaviours of a sample of 352 pet owners in Australian who experienced a range of natural disasters or emergencies. Three quarters experienced a bushfire or flood (42 per cent and 33 per cent respectively) and around a third (34 per cent) evacuated their homes. Of those who evacuated, 29 per cent did so in less than one hour and 58 per cent returned within two days. Over two-thirds (69 per cent) stayed with family or friends when they evacuated. Many people evacuated with multiple combinations of pets. The majority of those who evacuated kept some of their pets with them (81 per cent) and 15 per cent left some pets behind; either enclosed in the home, released to escape, or unable to find/catch. Around the time of evacuation 42 per cent sought some form of immediate assistance, help or advice, with evacuation of their pets. Most turned to neighbours and friends (30 per cent), social media (9 per cent), or emergency services (8 per cent). In general, around a third of the sample felt they were ‘not really prepared’ or were ‘unprepared’ for the emergency event. Of those who reported they were prepared, around 70 per cent had planned to keep all their pets with them if they evacuated. The results of this study highlight the complexity of pet composition and the requirement for detailed household evacuation planning and early enactment of plans. In addition, the need for responsible pet ownership and pet-friendly destinations on evacuation was a clear requirement, with decisions to evacuate being influenced by this. It is hoped that the results of this study will provide a useful reference for emergency management agencies and aid planning and engagement with pet owners.
I Disaster Resilient Australia: Get Ready
This research describes the preparedness
and the actual, or anticipated, evacuation
behaviours of a sample of 352 pet owners in
Australian who experienced a range of natural
disasters or emergencies. Three quarters
experienced a bushfire or flood (42per cent
and 33percent respectively) and around a
third (34percent) evacuated their homes.
Of those who evacuated, 29percent did so in
less than one hour and 58percent returned
within two days. Over two-thirds (69percent)
stayed with family or friends when they
evacuated. Many people evacuated with
multiple combinations of pets. The majority
of those who evacuated kept some of their
pets with them (81percent) and 15per cent
left some pets behind; either enclosed in
the home, released to escape, or unable to
find/catch. Around the time of evacuation
42percent sought some form of immediate
assistance, help or advice, with evacuation
of their pets. Most turned to neighbours and
friends (30percent), social media (9percent),
or emergency services (8percent).
In general, around a third of the sample
felt they were ‘not really prepared’ or were
‘unprepared’ for the emergency event. Of
those who reported they were prepared,
around 70percent had planned to keep all
their pets with them if they evacuated.
The results of this study highlight the
complexity of pet composition and the
requirement for detailed household
evacuation planning and early enactment of
plans. In addition, the need for responsible
pet ownership and pet-friendly destinations
on evacuation was a clear requirement, with
decisions to evacuate being influenced by this.
It is hoped that the results of this study will
provide a useful reference for emergency
management agencies and aid planning and
engagement with pet owners.
The preparedness and evacuation
behaviour of pet owners in
emergencies and natural disasters
Dr Melanie Taylor, Erin Lynch, Dr Penelope Burns (University of Western
Sydney), and Greg Eustace (RSPCA Queensland).
Much of what is known about pet owner behaviour in
emergencies in an Australian context is informed by
limited or anecdotal evidence, or media reporting of the
actions, or inactions, of individuals. In the international
disaster literature pet ownership is regarded as a risk
factor most consistently associated with evacuation
failure (Brackenridge etal. 2012, Heath, Voeks &
Glickman 2001) and linked to unsafe acts motivated by
a desire to rescue animals that have been left behind
(Heath, Voek & Glickman 2000, 2001; Zottarelli 2010).
Generally, attachment to pets is high, with many
people considering pets as members of the family
(White 2012). The strength of this attachment is
never more apparent than in the event of pet loss in
disaster, with reports of prolonged and often unnoticed
or unsupported grief (Blazina, Boyra & Shen-Miller
2011) and poor psychological outcomes, especially
in the event of forced abandonment of pets during
evacuation (Hunt, Al-Awadi & Johnson 2008). The roles
pets and other animals may play in supporting post-
emergency functioning and resilience-building are also
vital. For these reasons, as well as the implications
for public and responder safety during emergency,
it is critical that they are considered in emergency
The primary emergency event, internationally, that
led to increased attention to animal emergency
management was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in
which more than 50 000 companion animals were
abandoned and 15 000 were rescued. Irvine (2009)
provides a compelling overview of the scale of the
animal emergency management challenge and the film
‘Dark Water Rising’ (Shiley 2006) provides sobering
documentary evidence. Post Hurricane Katrina research
indicated that 44percent of non-evacuees who chose
not to evacuate did so because they didn’t want to
leave their pets. Soon after Hurricane Katrina the
United States Senate passed the Pets Evacuation and
Transportation Standards Act 2006, which requires states
seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency
assistance to make provisions for pets and service
animals in their plans.
In Australia there is no equivalent requirement. Pet
ownership levels in Australia are among the highest
in the world, with around 63percent of households
Australian Journal of Emergency Management I Volume 30, No. 2, April 2015
Disaster Resilient Australia: Get Ready I
owning a pet (Animal Health Alliance 2013). The need
to consider animals and their owners in emergencies
has been increasingly accepted in Australia, prompted
by large-scale disasters and reports from the 2003
ACT Bushfires Inquiry, 2011 Queensland Flood
Commission of Enquiry, the 2009 Victorian Bushfires
Royal Commission, and the 2013 Tasmania Bushfires
Enquiry. These reports all included references to the
management of animals. Many emergency services
organisations and other stakeholders involved with
emergency management and animal welfare now
have strategies and resources available to assist
Although the requirement to address a range of
issues associated with the management of animals
and their owners in emergencies and disasters is now
acknowledged in Australia there is a lack of systematic
data or evidence available to inform these activities.
NewZealand has a small body of research, with one
study (Glassey 2010a) reporting that a substantial
proportion of pet owners (56percent) would not
evacuate without their pets and a larger proportion
still (81percent) would be more likely to comply with
evacuation if there were evacuation shelters that could
cater for pets. This led to recommendations being
made to improve animal emergency management
(Glassey 2010b). In Australia research in this area is
currently non-existent, although there is increasing
discussion with Thompson (2013) positing that the
strong bond people have with animals could be used to
promote disaster preparedness. This current study was
undertaken to assist in addressing the gap in Australian
research. The study explores a range of issues around
Australian pet owner emergency preparedness for their
households and their pets, their actual or anticipated
evacuation behaviours in the context of an experienced
disaster or emergency, the sources of information used
to gain assistance around the time of evacuation, and
lessons identified from the experience.
A questionnaire was developed to assess pet owner
characteristics, emergency and evacuation contexts,
evacuation experiences and preparedness. To meet
study inclusion criteria respondents needed to have
experienced ‘a disaster or local emergency in which they
evacuated, or considered evacuating their home, to have
been a pet owner at the time of the disaster, and to be
aged over 18 at the time of completing the survey.
The survey was administered using the online survey-
hosting platform SurveyMonkey™. A link to the survey
with a short invitation to participate was distributed
using a combination of social media (Facebook and
Twitter), online and print media, and a University of
Western Sydney media release. The link on social
media was reposted by a number of animal rescue and
similar special interest pages. Data were collected over
an eight-week period (22 Jan – 22 Mar 2013).
The study was approved by the University of Western
Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee (Approval
No. H9993).
Data were analysed using IBM SPSS software (V.21).
Simple descriptive statistics, frequencies and cross-
tabulations, have been reported here to produce a
concise overview of the survey findings.
Sample characteristics
In total, 352 pet owners met the study inclusion criteria
and are represented in the analysis. The majority of the
sample was female (89percent) and 86percent were
aged between 25 and 64 years.
Respondents came from all states and territories with
the largest groups from Queensland (51percent) New
South Wales (25percent), and Victoria (12percent).
Two-thirds of the sample lived in suburban and rural
areas (35percent and 32percent respectively).
Pet ownership
Respondents were asked about the composition of their
pet ownership and their attitudes to their pets. At the
time of the emergency, 79percent of respondents
owned one or more dogs and 49percent owned one or
more cats. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of the
numbers of pets owned by respondents.
Figure 1 shows the complexity of household pet
ownership. In total, only 18percent of respondents
owned one pet; the majority of those (72percent)
owning a dog. Just over a quarter (26percent)
owned only one animal type, but multiples of them,
and the remainder (57percent) owned multiple
types of animal. A small proportion of respondents
(4percent) were running animal-related home-based
businesses or enterprises that involved large numbers
of animals. These were mostly breeding or rescue and
rehoming enterprises, and a few respondents were
Overwhelmingly, pet owners felt a high degree of
responsibility for their pets and a strong attachment to
them (with mean ratings of 9.84 and 9.76, respectively
on 10-point scales for each). Most respondents strongly
agreed that they considered pets to be part of the
family (86percent), that their pets made them happy
(86percent), and that they were great companions
Disaster and evacuation contexts
As data in this study do not relate to a single specific
disaster or emergency event, evacuation behaviours are
reported in relation to a range of hazard types. Figure2
summarises the disaster and emergency situations
encountered by respondents and their pets, i.e. the
single event about which they provided information in
the survey. This figure also includes data on the
proportions that did/didn’t evacuate in that event.
With regard to the timing of these events, more than
half (56percent) occurred since 2011, and more than
70percent since 2009. Most respondents provided
0 20 40 60 80 100
Four or more
Small mammals
Proportion of respondents (%)
Figure 1: Pet ownership composition at the time of the disaster.
Figure 2: Disaster and emergency situations reported by respondents and the proportions that did/didn’t evacuate.
0 10 20 30 40 50
Did not evacuate
Local emergency
Proportion of respondents (%)
Australian Journal of Emergency Management I Volume 30, No. 2, April 2015
I Disaster Resilient Australia: Get Ready
Figure 1: Pet ownership composition at the time of the disaster.
details of the events they experienced, with the 2011
southeast Queensland floods, 2011 Tropical Cyclone
Yasi, 2013 Bundaberg floods, and 2009 Black Saturday
bushfires mentioned most frequently.
In response to these events, 31percent of respondents
evacuated with their entire household, 6percent
partially evacuated, 36percent prepared to evacuate
but didn’t actually go, and 27percent didn’t evacuate
or prepare to evacuate. Of those who reported that they
were advised by authorities to evacuate (31percent)
70percent did so.
Just over a quarter of respondents (27percent)
had less than three hours to evacuate. As would be
expected, the hazard type influenced the amount of
time available to evacuate; 60percent of those who
experienced a local emergency and 23percent of
those who experienced a bushfire had less than one
hour to evacuate, whereas of those who experienced
flood, 18percent had between three hours to a day to
evacuate, and 24percent of those who experienced a
cyclone had more than a day.
Over a half of respondents who evacuated (58percent)
were away from home for less than two days, and a fifth
were unable to return for two-five days (21percent),
or more than five days (21percent). Again, the
hazard type influenced how long participants were
away from home. Approximately two-thirds of those
who evacuated due to bushfire or cyclone were able
to return in less than two days (67percent and
64percent, respectively) compared to only 37percent
who experienced flood. Flood-impacted pet owners
Figure 2: Disaster and emergency situations reported by respondents and the proportions that did/didn’t evacuate.
Australian Journal of Emergency Management I Volume 30, No. 2, April 2015
Disaster Resilient Australia: Get Ready I
were the most likely to be away from home for more
than five days (34percent) compared to those who
experienced bushfire and cyclone (14percent and
sevenpercent respectively).
Evacuation experiences
A total of 122 respondents evacuated (fully or partially)
and data in this section relate to this subsample.
When people evacuated their homes many things
happened to their pets. Figure 3 summarises what
happened to the animals.
Respondents were asked why some pets weren’t
evacuated with them. Comments included respondents
not being able to catch or contain them, being told
by emergency services personnel that they could not
take their pets with them at the time of evacuation, or
that they wouldn’t be able to take them to evacuation
centres, that it was too hard to take them, that they had
died, and that there were too many to take.
Over two-thirds of respondents who evacuated
stayed with family or friends (69percent), and
smaller proportions stayed at an evacuation shelter
(fivepercent), hotel/guest house (fourpercent) or
showground/campsite (threepercent). Those who
stayed elsewhere (18percent) mentioned staying
in cars/utes, with neighbours, and at schools or
workplaces; some reporting they stayed in cars
because evacuation shelters wouldn’t accept pets.
When asked about how owning pets influenced
evacuation, significant proportions of the sample
strongly agreed or agreed that having pets influenced
where they went after evacuation (81percent), their
decision about whether to evacuate (72percent),
increased the stress of evacuation (68percent), and
the mode of transport they used (66percent). In
addition, having pets influenced the number of trips
made to and from home during evacuation (54percent)
and slowed down the speed of evacuation (43percent).
Those who evacuated were also asked if they contacted
anyone for immediate assistance (help or information)
with evacuation of their pets. More than half
(58percent) contacted no one, 30percent contacted
neighbours or friends, ninepercent asked for help
via social media, eightpercent contacted emergency
services, and the same proportion contacted local
council, local veterinary clinics and online sources for
help, (sixpercent for each).
Respondents were asked to reflect and report on how
prepared they felt they were prior to the disaster/
emergency event. Figure 4 summarises these data.
When asked about consideration of pets in evacuation
planning, high proportions of those who reported
being ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ prepared had considered all
their pets (96percent and 87percent respectively).
Similarly, most owners planned to keep ‘all’ their pets
with them when they evacuated (74percent), a further
21percent planned to keep some with them and take
others to a different location, and only onepercent did
not plan to take their pets.
This study provided details of pet owner experiences
during Australian emergency events; their
preparedness, and their actions. It is clear that
household pet composition is often complex, with the
majority owning multiple animals of multiple types.
In a disaster or emergency situation this translates
to complex evacuation scenarios, with different
Figure 3: What happened to pets when households evacuated.
Note: due to the complex composition of pet ownership respondents could select multiple categories.
0 10 20 30 40 50
(had not considered it)
Not really prepared
(thought about it, but nothing
definite or discussed)
Somewhat prepared
(thought about it and had
discussed with household)
Very prepared
(written plan, most things considered
and discussed with household)
Proportion of respondents (%)
Figure 4: Reported level of preparedness prior to the disaster/emergency.
Australian Journal of Emergency Management I Volume 30, No. 2, April 2015
I Disaster Resilient Australia: Get Ready
pets with different needs; practical considerations,
transportation, and destinations. With a third of the
sample reporting they were unprepared before the
disaster, this emphasises the need for higher levels of
preparedness, planning, and discussion.
The experiences reported in this study suggest that
certain hazards are more likely to result in different
challenges for pet owners. Time to evacuate is likely
to be shorter for bushfires and local emergencies,
requiring unimpeded execution of evacuation plans,
whereas time away from home is likely to be longer
in the context of flood, meaning that the probability of
leaving pets at home with food for a few days is less
likely to be an acceptable strategy.
Clearly all disasters are different and official advice
should still remain as ‘be prepared, act early, be
considerate and act safe’ (Australian Government 2014).
However, the reality is that animals do get left behind.
In this study approximately 15percent of the sample
left some animals at home either because they were
deliberately left in the home or they were released to
escape, or they could not be caught. Perhaps more
concerning is that comments indicate some households
only partially evacuated so that they could leave
someone behind to take care of the animals whilst the
rest of the household evacuated.
The influence of pets on decision-making and the
process of evacuation cannot be underestimated.
Datafrom this study indicates that for the vast majority
of pet owners their pets influence where they go
and their decision to evacuate. In addition, pets may
determine the mode of transport they use, the time
it takes to leave, the number of trips that are needed,
and increases the overall stress of evacuation. Even
with these encumbrances pet owners will still take
risks to take, or go back and get, their animals.
The consequences of not taking such action are too
unbearable to contemplate for many.
Finally, the importance of family and friends to help
support evacuees with pets is highlighted in this study.
No doubt this is an important resource for all those
who need to leave their homes in an emergency.
However, pet-friendly destinations are a necessity for
pet owners. Most people plan to take their pets if they
evacuate and do take their pets with them. If options
are not available to accommodate pets then owners will
either sleep in cars or other makeshift places, or will
simply decide not to evacuate.
Strengths and limitations
This study provides useful Australian data to inform
those involved in the management of animals and their
owners in disasters and emergencies. The sample
size is sufficiently large to provide confidence in the
Image: The Newcastle Herald. Permission granted.
A Newcastle firefighter reunites owner and his pet.
Understandably, emotional attachments influence the
decision-making and evacuation actions of people.
Figure 4: Reported level of preparedness prior to the disaster/emergency.
Image: The Newcastle Herald. Permission granted.
A Newcastle firefighter reunites owner and his pet.
Understandably, emotional attachments influence the
decision-making and evacuation actions of people.
Australian Journal of Emergency Management I Volume 30, No. 2, April 2015
Disaster Resilient Australia: Get Ready I
data across a range of different hazards and provide
insights into pet owner levels of preparedness for
their pets, the rationale for their decision-making, and
their priorities and considerations for evacuation and
relocation. However, the study also has limitations. The
sampling strategy for the study was uncontrolled and
self-selected, which can result in biases and cannot
be considered representative of all pet owners. Clearly
many respondents were extremely attached to, and
passionate about, their pets; ‘animal lovers’ more than
simply ‘animal owners’. However, from an emergency
management perspective such people are important,
as these are the people most motivated to protect
their pets and potentially the most likely to take risks
to evacuate with them and return for them. It is also
clear that most pet owners consider their pets as part
of the family (Glassey 2010a) and data in this study does
not differ significantly to suggest this sample is more
biased in this regard. Pet ownership is, in most part, an
optional undertaking. Therefore it should be expected
that the majority of pet owners will feel committed and
attached to their animals.
This study has provided a snapshot of Australian pet
owners and their behaviours in, and preparedness for,
emergencies. The findings of the study should inform
planning by emergency management agencies and
other stakeholders, on the behaviours and expectations
of pet owners, on animal management needs in
evacuation centre planning, and on future community
engagement campaigns.
Animal Health Alliance 2013, Pet ownership in Australia
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Australian Government 2014, Attorney-General’s Department,
Australian Emergency Management Institute. Pets in
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2012, Dimensions of the human-animal bond and evacuation
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Blazina C, Boyraz G & Shen-Miller D 2011, The Psychology
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About the authors
Dr Melanie Taylor is an occupational psychologist
working in risk perception and risk-related behaviour,
with a focus on disasters and mass events of
significance to national security, such as terrorism,
pandemic, and emergency animal diseases.
Dr Penelope Burns is a general practitioner and
a researcher working in disaster medicine with a
particular interest in physical and mental health in the
Greg Eustace is an expert in emergency management
and the psychosocial impacts of disasters with
experience in animal management in emergencies.
Erin Lynch was a final year science student employed
on a UWS scholarship to work on this project. Erin has
experience of animal evacuation in cyclone shelters in
the Cayman Islands and she is a WIRES volunteer.
Melanie, Penelope and Greg are currently involved in
a Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research
Centre project ‘Managing Animals in Disasters:
Improving preparedness, response, and resilience
through individual and organisational collaboration’.
... Ultimately, this loss of trust and confidence may lead to animal protection in disasters being considered a hindrance rather than an opportunity to improve human and animal safety. Studies have shown that humans do place themselves at risk for the needs of animals, such as breaching cordons to attend to their animals or failing to evacuate if they are unable to take their animals (Heath, 1999;Heath et al., 2001;Heath and Linnabary, 2015;Irvine, 2009;Glassey, 2010;Potts and Gadenne, 2014;Taylor et al., 2015). During the bushfires in Australia in the summer of 2019 and 2020, the loss of three billion animals gained global attention, as well as responses from domestic and international animal interest groups. ...
... When confronted with the need to evacuate, some households may even intentionally partially evacuate to leave someone behind to attend to their animals, whilst the remainder leave for safety (Taylor et al., 2015). Where animals have been left behind in an evacuated disaster zone, many often return to rescue or attend to their animals, which may put themselves or public safety responders at risk, as in the 2010 Haiti earthquake (Sawyer and Huertas, 2018, p. 10), Canterbury earthquakes (Potts and Gadenne, 2014), and Edgecumbe flood . ...
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The Australian Black Summer fires of 2019–2020 that decimated over three billion animals (World Wildlife Fund, 2020) served as a harsh reminder of hazards we humans choose to create. Disasters are not natural, nor are they an event. They are a process manufactured and implemented by people and their choices (Kelman, 2020, p. 15). Definitions of what constitutes a “disaster” also tend to be anthropomorphic and fail to recognise animals in their terminology, often relegating such sentient beings as environmental impacts or property loss. Humans are increasingly becoming more at risk from natural hazards such as floods, storms, drought, and fires, and this increase is strongly correlated with urbanisation, population growth, and climate change (Haddow et al., 2017). Animals, however, are becoming more vulnerable to these hazards, also through farming intensification, loss of natural habitat, and failing animal-health infrastructure – again all caused by human action. It is only humans – albeit with varying degrees of influence, power, and resources – who can mitigate these risks. This power imbalance places a moral obligation on humans to act to protect animals from the effects of disaster that they have created.
... The strong ties between people and both production and companion animals and the legal, moral and ethical aspects need to be considered during uncontrolled wildfires and other hazard events (Bernard & Pascoe, 2010;Pawsey, 2015;Rogers et al., 2015;Squance, 2011;Taylor et al., 2015b;Thompson, 2015;Travers et al., 2017;Trigg et al., 2016a;Westcott et al., 2017a). Many people indicate that they would risk their lives to save their own pets (White, 2012) and other animals (Booth & Curtis, 2014). ...
... The experience of Hurricane Katrina was one of the first disasters to be internationally recognised for highlighting the need to include considerations for animals in disaster planning, to avoid compounding the emotional and economic toll on individuals and communities impacted by devastating loss or injury Taylor et al., 2015b;Thompson, 2015;Travers et al., 2017). Forcing owners to leave their animals behind can lead to reactive decision-making, putting lives at risk, creating tension with emergency responders and decision makers, and significantly increasing the resources required to rescue animals in disaster zones (Evans & Perez-y-Perez, 2016;Nusbaum et al., 2007;Yamazaki, 2015). ...
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Multiagency collaboration is fundamental to effective emergency management, yet little is known about what impacts collaboration between stakeholders in the human-animal interface in emergencies. This doctoral research sought to address this gap by investigating the issues impacting multiagency collaboration in animal welfare emergency management (AWEM) and by considering if New Zealand’s AWEM framework is fit-for-purpose. An action research and qualitative methods approach was used, incorporating focus groups, semi-structured interviews and document reviews related to three events (2017 Port Hills fire, 2017 Eastern Bay of Plenty floods and 2019 Pigeon Valley fire). Participants included 73 responders from 19 organisations. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. The data analysis has led to identifying four interrelated themes describing key factors influencing interagency collaboration during emergency response: 1) emergency management context, 2) behaviour in emergencies, 3) the knowledge base of responders and 4) connection, the latter being critical to improving collaboration in AWEM. The findings highlight how professional silos and a failure to understand the importance of human-animal-environment (h-a-e) interdependencies has resulted in AWEM being largely disconnected from emergency management overall. This thesis proposes the adoption of a One Welfare (OW) framework to develop a transdisciplinary approach to emergency management in which all stakeholders acknowledge the importance of h-a-e interdependencies and work to implement a framework to support this. This thesis offers five strategies, tested and refined in the local context, to address One Welfare implementation challenges and to ensure that animals are truly integrated into emergency management: legislation and policy changes, including human-animal-environment interface interactions as business as usual, improving knowledge through interprofessional education and training, incorporating OW champions, and recognising the role of animals as vital conduits into communities. This is the first known examination of the effectiveness of multiagency collaboration within the New Zealand AWEM framework and the first proposal for OW as a mechanism to integrate animals in all components of the emergency management framework. An ‘Aotearoa One Welfare’ approach will support a shift from a focus on individual emergency management domains towards a transdisciplinary approach that acknowledges the interdependencies of the h-a-e interface, a range of knowledge systems (including indigenous knowledge) and, ultimately, optimises outcomes for AWEM in New Zealand.
... The former allows both organisers and evacuees ample time to prepare, pack, and transport necessary items, including animals, whereas the latter does the opposite. Unplanned evacuation, particularly when animals are involved, can be extremely complex and challenging [1], resulting in unexpected circumstances. As a result, planning and preparation are important keywords in animal evacuation. ...
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Providing shelters for animals during disasters such as floods, bushfires and storms requires adequate planning and preparedness. Planning for animals during the disaster response and recovery phases is critical to mitigating the negative effects that animal loss or separation can have. The human-animal bond has the potential to influence people’s decisions during emergencies, such as how they will respond and when or if they will evacuate. Evacuation with animals during a disaster event can be difficult and complicated. It is critical, however, that animals are rescued and kept safe during and after disasters. Any compromise can result in the death of such animals. Similarly, even in disaster-related situations, animal handling should be consistent with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. This project aims to better understand disaster preparedness and resilience, as well as the recovery of animals during a disaster event. Twenty-five potential animal evacuation sites, including saleyards, showgrounds, animal shelters, and racecourses, were identified and accessed in nine local government areas (LGAs) across the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. On-site survey using a 5-point Likert scale questionnaire was used to collect data. While none of the facilities are of high standard, 16% would require cosmetic work, 76% would require minor work, and the remaining facilities would require significant work. The project’s implication is that the assessment guideline can be included in the local council’s emergency management plan to improve adequate planning for safe animal evacuation.
... Cohn et al. 2006;McLennan et al. 2019), especially when pets were involved(McLennan et al. 2013;Taylor et al. 2015). ...
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Disasters cost the world $US268bn in 2020 in economic, property and human losses. In Queensland, the most disaster-prone of Australian states, flood, cyclone and bushfire will cost $466bn over the next 40 years. Individual preparation for natural hazards has been shown to reduce this cost by reducing adverse experiences, physical health problems and post-traumatic stress, and improving the speed of disaster recovery. This study categorises preparation activity into clusters according to the activity's purpose in order to survey residents of a bushfire-vulnerable area in Queensland, Australia. This cluster approach enabled identification of specific areas of weakness in preparation plans, finding that evacuation planning activity, and safety planning activity were especially weak. These results show that emergency agency communicators and community engagement practitioners can use cluster-based research to better plan messaging within their bushfire preparation communication campaigns to target and motivate specific safety behaviours. Improved safety of people and property will mitigate the costs of bushfires in Queensland in future.
... Households with children(Singh et al., 2021), disabled members (Van Willigen et al.,Spence et al., 2007) and elderly(Kleier et al., 2017) differed in their levels and strategies of preparation. More likely to be prepared are farmers (high levels of preparation), women with pets(Every et al., 2019) and pet owners experienced with a natural hazard, in this case bushfire(Trigg et al., 2015;Taylor et al., 2015). The preparation of farmers in relation to the care of animals was linked to protection of livelihood(McLennan et al., 2015;Smith et al., 2015). ...
With weather-related natural hazards increasing in number and severity, it is more important than ever for communities to prepare for all types of hazards. However, the literature does not reveal what such preparedness looks like – how much preparation is enough and, conversely, how low levels of preparation can be easily recognised by emergency agencies. This study maps Australian emergency agency understanding of competencies that are needed by individuals and communities for effective preparation. Using in-depth semi-structured interviews of 30 emergency agency, local council and not-for-profit organisation staff from all Australian states, participants identified a range of community and individual features that they had seen in un-prepared and well-prepared communities and which they believed were key competencies for protective action. These competencies were then mapped against participants’ perceptions of five different levels of preparation, resulting in a Preparedness Competency Index that allows agencies to benchmark preparation in communities, as well as to recognise when lack of preparation competency leaves groups vulnerable.
... However, there are several factors that explain non-evacuee behavior. Studies that explain why individuals stay, even when a threat of life or property loss is imminent, have found factors such as elderly age (Cutter & Barnes, 1982;Yun & Hamada, 2015), caring for an infirmed loved one (Yun & Hamada, 2015), physical health concerns (Yun & Hamada, 2015), staying to protect property (Baker, 1991;Riad e al., 1999;McGee et al., 2019), a tolerance for risk (McCaffrey et al., 2018), employment constraints (Cutter & Barnes, 1982;Baker, 1991;Hasan et al., 2011;Yun & Hamada, 2015), a lack of a formalized evacuation mandate (Cutter & Barnes, 1982), a lack of financial or social resources to mobilize (Cutter & Barnes, 1982;Riad e al., 1999), a lack of sheltering options for household pets (Farmer et al., 2016;Taylor et al., 2015;Yin et al., 2014;Farmer & DeYoung, 2019), and not knowing where to go (Yun & Hamada, 2015) can predict when individuals will stay behind. For example, only 37% of individuals over the age of 60 evacuated in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. ...
Since the start of the pandemic, some U.S. communities have faced record storms, fires, and floods. Communities have confronted the increased challenge of curbing the spread of COVID-19 amid evacuation orders and short-term displacement that result from hazards. This raises the question of whether disasters, evacuations, and displacements have resulted in above-average infection rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study investigates the relationship between disaster intensity, sheltering-in-place, evacuation-related mobility, and contagion following Hurricane Zeta in Southeastern Louisiana and The Wildfires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, California, known as the Glass Fire. We draw on data from the county subdivision level and mapped and aggregated tallies of Facebook user movement from the Facebook Data for Good program’s GeoInsights Portal. We test the effects of disasters, evacuation, and shelter-in-place behaviors on COVID-19 spread using panel data models, matched panel models, and synthetic control experiments. Our findings suggest associations between disaster intensity and higher rates of COVID-19 cases. We also find that while sheltering-in-place led to decreases in the spread of COVID-19, evacuation-related mobility did not result in our hypothesized surge of cases immediately after the disasters. The findings from this study aim to inform policymakers and scholars about how to better respond to disasters during multi-crisis events, such as offering hotel accommodations to evacuees instead of mass shelters and updating intake and accommodation procedures at shelters, such as administration temperature screenings, offering hand sanitizing stations, and providing isolated areas for ill evacuees.
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Bushfire is a devastating natural hazard. Contrary to bushfire policy on catastrophic fires, some householders prefer to stay and defend their properties. In addition, more frequent destructive events have been predicted because of climate change. To date, little attention has been paid to factors concerning why householders decide not to evacuate, especially for at-risk communities. Recent bushfire fatalities underscore the need to understand the factors influencing decision-making among residents in at-risk communities. This study addresses this imperative by identifying factors through a systematic literature review. Out of 142 articles extracted from the Web of Science and Scopus databases between 1999 – 2020, 32 were found relevant. Based on the rationalism classification of knowledge in psychology, these were categorized into information, social, protection, and operational factors. The factors may inform further studies involving predictors of residents’ non-evacuation from bushfire hazards. In addition, the significant factors can be leveraged towards early self-evacuation, which could reduce bushfire fatalities and mental health impacts among the residents.
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Growing urbanization and the related demand for resources together with the climate change appear to be among the factors responsible for the intensified frequency and severity of disasters worldwide. At the same time, urbanization is related not only with the increasing flow of inhabitants to the big cities but also with an increase in the number of pet ownership in seeking social, psychological and health benefits. But when a disaster strikes, companion animals are affected as much as humans. Their survival depends on the preliminary preparedness of their guardians for disaster response and recovery. For this purpose, the present study investigated the level of disaster preparedness among 335 pet owners in Bulgaria through an anonymous written questionnaire. The results showed that 64.86% of the participants in the survey were women, 52.24% of all respondents were 19-24 years old and 75.45% were keeping pets at the moment of filling in the survey. The study found that 87.16% of the respondents were well-informed about the likelihood of disaster hazards in their residential area. Pet owners were prepared to approach the relevant public health authorities (89.55% of them), respectively the animal health services (82.88%) in case of emergency. Only 36.72% of all pet keepers had a prepared disaster family plan, with another 28.96% of the respondents having developed a disaster pet action plan for their animal companions. If emergency evacuation is needed, more than 66% of the respondents would take their pets with them during relocation. This intention was statistically significant in women and those pet owners who were familiar with the potential disaster hazards.
Pets are considered family to many people, which may be a reason why pet owners face identity-specific challenges during disasters. As such, this research queries how pet owner identity may impact communicative exigencies during a disaster and how this identity may impact individuals’ disaster sense-making. The 2017 Hurricane Harvey serves as the context for this research. Data were gathered using a three-stage, multi-method design that sampled from Harvey-affected pet owners. Findings suggest that pet owner identity did impact participants’ communicative exigencies as well as their sense-making processes related to their Hurricane Harvey experience as a pet owner. Based on participant insights, the concept of “crisis core identities” (CCIs) is proposed to make sense of nuances that emerged from data. Brenda Dervin’s sense-making methodology and Michael Hecht’s communication theory of identity situate the study and serve as foundations for advancing CCIs. Implications are further discussed as related to extant research, praxis, and future research.
Due to their circumstances and resources before, during and following disaster events, some people have higher risk of harm in disaster requiring specific disaster planning considerations. The prevalence of big bodied people (BBP) is increasing in many countries and BBP are potentially at higher risk in disasters in direct relation to their size, shape and weight. This study explores planning considerations by emergency management, health, humanitarian and resource sector (EMs) for BBP in New Zealand. Qualitative semi structured interviews explore EM considerations particular to BBP. A purposive sampling recruitment technique was employed. Fifteen EM individuals were interviewed in-person or via Zoom between July 2018 - April 2021. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Data were thematically analysis. Five themes were identified: Prioritising People; Overlooked and left behind; Whose job is it anyway?; Practical and resource issues; The way forward. Participants were readily able to identify a range of ‘groups’ likely to be at higher risk in disasters, however BBP were not identified as at-risk and no specific planning was in place. A one size approach was more likely to overlook specific needs of BBP with lack of clarity over who would be responsible for planning. While concerning that BBP were not currently included in planning, emergency managers were open to education. The EMs interviewed expressed a desire for information, education and training to build the knowledge base concerning this sector of the population.
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ABSTRACT: The willingness of people to risk their own lives during disasters to save those of animals has been well documented. Existing research characterises animals and pet ownership as risk factors for early evacuation from—and survival of—natural disasters. However, given high pet ownership levels in industrialised countries, this paper considers how animals might alternatively be reconfigured as protective factors. It offers some preliminary thoughts on how this might be achieved with innovative communication initiatives informed by post-structural approaches to human-animal relations. Specifically, the paper encourages communicators to take advantage of human-animal relations by addressing the human-animal relationship
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Simple Summary One of the issues raised by recent natural disasters in Australia is the management of companion animal welfare in disaster planning, response and recovery. Official inquiries following these disasters uncovered a number of shortcomings in addressing the management of animal welfare issues. This article suggests that despite some reform following these events, disaster management still fails to take seriously the interests of companion animals. Abstract This article examines the regulation of companion animal welfare during disasters, with some context provided by two recent major disaster events in Australia. Important general lessons for improved disaster management were identified in subsequent inquiries. However, the interests of companion animals continue to be inadequately addressed. This is because key assumptions underpinning disaster planning for companion animals—the primacy of human interests over animal interests and that individuals will properly address companion animal needs during times of disaster—are open to question. In particular these assumptions fail to recognise the inherent value of companion animals, underestimate the strong bond shared by some owners and their animals and, at the same time, overestimate the capacity of some owners to adequately meet the needs of their animals.
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One of the many impacts of natural disasters on the well-being of the humans who experience them is enforced abandonment and loss of companion animals. Hurricane Katrina, which struck the gulf coast of the United States in late August, 2005, was such a disaster. This study assessed the psychological effects of pet loss on survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Sixty-five predominantly white, female, middle-aged pet owners who lived in affected regions of the country completed online questionnaires, assessing symptoms of depression, acute stress, peri-traumatic dissociation, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Almost all companion animals were cats or dogs. Pet loss was strongly associated with psychopathology across all measures, even when controlling for displacement from the home (Wilks' Lambda F(4,57) = 5.22, p = 0.001). The impact of pet loss on PTSD was mediated by acute stress and dissociative symptoms during the evacuation (both F(1,61) > 9.3, both p < 0.01). This suggests that forced abandonment of a companion animal during an evacuation adds considerably to the acute trauma, thereby increasing the risk of long-term PTSD. The impact of pet loss on depressive symptoms, however, was independent of acute stress and dissociation (F(1,31) = 15.03, p = 0.001), suggesting that it is both the acute loss of the pet as well as the continued absence of the pet itself that contributes to depressive symptom severity.
The Psychology of the Human-Animal Bond A Resource for Clinicians and Researchers Chris Blazina, Guler Boyraz, and David N. Shen-Miller Since the domestication of dogs and cats thousands of years ago, the connection between humans and animals has been complex and evolving.Today, it is a significant area of psychological study, and of practice in areas as diverse as animal-assisted therapy and pet bereavement counseling. The Psychology of the Human-Animal Bond offers a contextual framework for understanding the dynamics of this elemental relationship, both in the larger society and on the client level. An international panel of scholars and clinicians from across psychology (as well as from philosophy, literature, and other disciplines outside mental health)explores topics that will help professionals deepen their understanding of the human-animal relationship, translate this insight to practice, and consider questions of identity, attachment, and ethics. In topics ranging from the universal (health benefits of pet ownership) to the timely (the exploitation of fighting dogs), the reader gains perspective on the numerous factors that influence the bond between humans and animals, and the ways in which the bond reflects our own challenges as humans. Key areas of coverage include: • Cultural and contextual issues. • Psychological aspects of attachment and well-being. • Bereavement, loss, and disenfranchised grief. • Animal rights, abuse, and neglect. • Tests, measurements, current research issues,and future directions. The Psychology of the Human-Animal Bond fills a unique and vital niche, and will be of great interest and practical use to psychologists, clinical social workers, and rehabilitation professionals such as physical and occupational therapists.
The events of Hurricane Katrina focused attention on the plight of companion animals and their human guardians during disasters. One result was the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006. Hurricane Ike, one of the first mass evacuation events after the legislation was signed into law, provided an opportunity to examine pet owner evacuation in a post-Katrina PETS Act environment. The relationships between two dimensions of the human–animal bond—attachment and commitment—and evacuation decisions among pet owners were examined using the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) and the Miller-Rada Commitment to Pets Scale (CPS). A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to a sample of pet-owning residents in zip codes that had been under mandatory evacuation order. One hundred and twenty valid responses were received. Descriptive and bi-variate statistics and logistic regressions were conducted. The two dimensions of the human–animal bond were positively correlated. The results of the logistic regression found people with higher levels of commitment had lower odds of evacuation, but the level of attachment did not predict human evacuation. Pets were noted to influence decisions among people who evacuated, as well as people who did not. Contrary to the changes expected under the PETS Act, the relationship between the human–animal bond and evacuation decisions was found to be consistent with pre-PETS Act research.
Hurricane Katrina was not the first disaster to expose companion animals and their guardians to significant risk, nor was it the first time organizations were involved in the recovery of animals left by people who evacuated. Yet it was during Hurricane Katrina that there was significant media exposure to the plight of pets in disasters. The purpose of this article is to (1) explore preexisting characteristics of disaster vulnerability of people who experienced pet loss, and (2) examine pet loss in association with evacuation behaviors and other traumatic experiences. The survey data are from a random sample of 1,510 Hurricane Katrina survivors conducted by the Gallup Organization in September and October 2005. Descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate analyses were conducted. Women, younger adults, and people who evacuated were more likely to have lost a pet during Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, people who lost pets were statistically different from their counterparts in terms of experiencing other traumatic events, including being separated from family, staying in an emergency shelter, and being hurt or injured. The results of this study support calls for greater attention to companion animals and their guardians during disasters in order to promote public health and safety.
When disasters strike, people are not the only victims. Hurricane Katrina raised public attention about how disasters affect dogs, cats, and other animals considered members of the human family. In this short but powerful book, noted sociologist Leslie Irvine goes beyond Katrina to examine how disasters like oil spills, fires, and other calamities affect various animal populations-on factory farms, in research facilities, and in the wild. Filling the Ark argues that humans cause most of the risks faced by animals and urges for better decisions about the treatment of animals in disasters. Furthermore, it makes a broad appeal for the ethical necessity of better planning to keep animals out of jeopardy. Irvine not only offers policy recommendations and practical advice for evacuating animals, she also makes a strong case for rethinking our use of animals, suggesting ways to create more secure conditions. The hopeful message of Filling the Ark is that once we realize how we make animals vulnerable to disasters we can begin to question and change the practices that put them at risk.This book will make a significant contribution to the field of animals and society and to the literature on animal welfare.