What are the challenges faced in animal welfare emergency management?

Taylor, M., McCarthy, M., Burns, P., Thompson, K., Smith, B., & Eustace, G. (2015). The challenges of managing animals and their owners in disasters: Perspectives of Australian response organisations and stakeholders. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 30(2), 31.

This study was the first to empirically investigate the challenges of managing animals and their owners in disasters, from the perspective of various organisations and stakeholders. The results showed there is a clear need for clarification of roles, and communication between sectors.

There has been an increasing awareness of the need to include animals, and animal owners, in disaster and emergency planning, and as such there has been various attempts to develop plans and guidelines regarding pet, wild and livestock animals in emergency situations.  However, there is some confusion as to the responsibilities and coordination of the relevant stakeholders who encounter the human-animal interface in emergencies.  Understanding where the confusion and challenges lie will help develop best practice approaches for animal welfare emergency management. This study was conducted to investigate these issues from the perspective of different emergency response organisations and stakeholders in Australia.

The survey was conducted on all Australian state and territory emergency response services, primary industries, local governments, animal-related organisations and human-related organisations.  They were questioned on whether they felt their organisation should be responsible for management of animals in emergency situations, whether they knew of the formal animal emergency arrangements in their state, what difficulties their organisations encountered, and to what severity and extent they occurred. 

Different categories of organisations and stakeholders face different challenges

The results showed that all organisations and stakeholders involved in the management of animals and owners in emergency situations have experienced some degree of difficulties, and that there is confusion as to who is responsible for the response and recovery arrangements.  Emergency services do not feel they should be responsible for animal rescue approaches, and are unsure of the formal response arrangements. On the other hand, primary industries organisations do feel responsible and are well aware of relevant arrangements. The main issues faced by all organisations included the logistics available (personnel and equipment), and the physical rescue of animals. Animal-related organisations also reported difficulties with untrained responders.

This study proved to be insightful and useful, showing the range of challenges faced by Australian response organisations regarding animal emergency management. The authors concluded that the results highlight a need for better clarification of roles relating to emergency responses arrangements, and better communication between all organisation and relevant stakeholders.

World Animal Protection view

World Animal Protection has more than 50 years’ experience of helping people help animals in disasters. This study shows the importance of recognising the different roles and responsibilities that diverse organisations have to play in disaster and emergency response situations, and the need for communication between all members of the community.