Be prepared for a bushfire emergency

In the lead up to summer, bushfires in Australian occur frequently and with our hot and dry climate, and the current state of drought, it doesn’t take much for bushfires to spread rapidly and to get out of control. Sadly, these horrific fires can have disastrous effects on wildlife and can cause great loss to livestock and pets – especially if there was no animal emergency plan in place.

To help ensure your pets stay safe, especially if you are in a bushfire area or likely to relocate in the case of an emergency, be sure to create a disaster management plan. Being prepared will help keep everyone safe should you need to be evacuated quickly.

As part of your disaster plan, be sure to prepare an animal emergency kit to ensure you have the essentials for your animal if you need to seek temporary accommodation. The kit should include:

  • Dry food and water containers (enough for at least three days)
  • Food and water bowls
  • Leads. collars, harnesses, etc.
  • Poo bags for dogs, cat litter and tray for cats, etc.
  • Cage or carrier appropriate for smaller pets (cat, bird, guinea pig, reptile). Ensure the litter tray in the carrier suits the animal. Label the cage and/or carrier with your contact details.
  • Vaccination certificates, registration certificates
  • First aid items and medications
  • Blankets, towel, and bedding
  • Information sheet including your name and contact details, photo of pet, pet’s name, description and care requirements
  • Toys

How are animals rescued during a bushfire crisis?
In NSW, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is the primary agency for animal welfare during any emergency, however, they may delegate responsibilities to other organisations such as the Animal Welfare League NSW Inspectorate due to their emergency training and equipment. DPI has someone assigned to communicate updates to all relevant agencies that have officers at evacuation centres or are running their own animal evacuation centres. AWL NSW also have a strong working relationship with NSW Emergency Services and are often called directly during an emergency to assist their teams with animals in need of assistance.

DPI Fodder and Animal Welfare Assistance
Landholders and community members affected by bushfires requiring assistance with emergency fodder, emergency water, livestock or domestic animal assessment should call the Agricultural and Animal Services Hotline on 1800 814 647.

The Agricultural and Animal Services Functional Area (AASFA) is supporting primary producers and communities impacted by the fires in the States northeast. Staff from NSW Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services are supporting the Rural Fire Service across all fires. For those impacted and seeking assistance for emergency fodder, emergency water (for immediate animal welfare cases only), animal care (evacuations) or animal assessment (resulting from the fires) please contact the AASFA Hotline on 1800 814 647.

How to assist wildlife in bushfire events
If you find an injured native animal, please contact WIRES. During bushfires, WIRES are on standby to get onto fire grounds when the RFS declares the area safe as most volunteer organisations are not permitted to enter active fire zones.

WIRES general advice for helping wildlife during bushfires:

  • Take domestic animals with you if you evacuate or keep cats indoors and dogs under control wherever possible so that wildlife can flee safely through your yard if needed.
  • Leave out bowls of water for animals and birds escaping fires, use shallow bowls with a few sticks or stones on one side to allow smaller animals to escape if they fall in.
  • Keep a cardboard box and towel in the boot of your car in case you find an injured animal that you can safely contain without putting yourself in any danger.
  • If you rescue an animal that has been burnt, do not attempt to feed it, please wrap it loosely, ideally in 100% cotton fabric, place it in a ventilated box with a lid and keep it in a dark, quiet place whilst waiting for a rescuer or for transport to the nearest vet.
  • If you can safely take injured animals to your nearest vet please do so, as injured animals will require urgent vet assessment. If you can please also call WIRES to let us know which vet you’ve taken the animal to so we can follow up with vet to bring the animals into care when they are ready.
  • Do not approach injured snakes, flying-foxes, large macropods, raptors or monitors as these must be rescued by trained specialists, for these species please call WIRES first for rescue assistance on 1300 094 737.
  • If you own a swimming pool and live near where fires are burning there are some simple things you can do to assist wildlife who may be seeking water. Always drape something over the edge of your pool so that animals have a surface to grab hold of and climb out. A length of heavy-duty rope or even a bodyboard, secured at one end to something heavy outside the pool, is ideal as it does not absorb water and provides a platform for an exhausted animal to rest on. Pool steps are also frequently too high to allow animals an easy exit and placing bricks or large stones to the side of each step can make it easier for animals to gain a foothold and climb out. Always check your pool regularly (twice daily) including in the skimmer box. If you do find any animal trapped in a pool, call WIRES immediately on 1300 094 737 for advice.