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Remember Animals When You Prepare For Emergencies!


For immediate release: 25 March 2007

Remember Animals When You Prepare For Emergencies!

Auckland exercise reinforces lessons from Hurricane Katrina


The SPCA has called on pet-owners to make arrangements in advance, to help their animals through natural disasters and other emergencies.

The Society says that every household should prepare an emergency plan, a survival kit and a 'get-away' kit and that the needs of animals, along with those of other family members, should be factored in when making these preparations.

Items to have ready include your animal's carry box, blankets, toys, bowls and collar with name tag, as well as vaccination and veterinary certificates, photographs for identification, bottled water and a first aid kit (see attached list for details).

Auckland SPCA's Chief Executive, Bob Kerridge, describes the need to prepare for the worst as amply demonstrated by overseas disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, which wreaked destruction across the southern United States in 2005.

Lessons learned overseas, he adds, were reinforced by 'Exercise Ruaumoko', a simulated emergency exercise held earlier this month in the Auckland region.

Based around a fictional scenario of over 100 lengthy earthquakes beneath Auckland's Volcanic Field, the exercise involved Civil Defence and local authorities, along with the Auckland Regional Council, government departments and a range of social agencies, including the Auckland SPCA.

"We were very impressed by the emphasis the other organisations involved placed on ensuring the safety of animals. This emphasis is something new and reflects an enhanced awareness of how distress over separation from their animals can impede people's recovery from the shock and dislocation caused by emergencies," says Mr Kerridge.

"In the Auckland region, we live constantly with the threat of volcanic activity, albeit that we mistakenly tend to ignore this fact. An eruption could well be heralded in advance by seismic activity of the type envisaged in Exercise Ruaumoko.

"If you know an emergency is pending, you should keep your animals close to you and be prepared to take them along, if evacuation becomes necessary. Animals left behind are likely to panic and disappear and may well not survive on their own.

"When Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, a lot of people ignored the extensive warnings or failed to take appropriate action to protect themselves and their animals. As a result, they found themselves in an emergency they couldn't handle.

"Feelings of guilt are very common when beloved pets go missing, many of them perishing. But such feelings take on an extra weight when you really know that you've failed to do your best to save them. So, once it's announced that an emergency is looming, keep your radio on, take heed of the warnings and act accordingly, both for your own sake and for that of your animals," he says.

Mr Kerridge adds that, although there's normally a warning period, however brief, in the lead up to volcanic eruptions, cyclones, floods or health epidemics, the same does not apply to other emergencies, including earthquakes, major aircraft disasters, explosions and fires.

When disasters occur unheralded, it may be not be possible to immediately ensure the safety of animals. However, if owners have to leave their pets behind, they should let the authorities know. The SPCA would make every effort to assist in their recovery, once entry into the area is again permitted.

To help owners plan for the safety of their animals, the SPCA has produced an information leaflet, entitled 'Companion Animals in Emergencies'. Developed in collaboration with Civil Defence, the leaflet will soon be available from SPCA branches across New Zealand.

The leaflet will be accompanied by an 'Animals Inside' sticker, to alert emergency rescue workers and fire-fighters to the presence of animals on a property. The SPCA recommends that owners display the sticker permanently on their homes, detailing the number of residential pets in the home.


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