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Complacency Threatening the Lives of Animals

Gaps in New Zealand’s current animal welfare emergency response are threatening the lives of thousands of animals during a major disaster like a bush fire.

This is the subject of investigation for Adjunct Senior Lecturer, research affiliate and vet technologist, Hayley Squance, who has been awarded the Bob Kerridge Animal Welfare Fellowship to specifically research animal welfare in wildfire response. This will make up part of her wider PhD project entitled ‘Enhancing multi-agency collaboration for Animal Welfare Emergency Management.’

Squance, who set up Massey University’s Vet Emergency Response Team and is recognised as an international expert in animal welfare emergency management, says New Zealanders are not prepared for these events and many are not aware of the volatility of wild fires.

“Growing up in Australia and living through Ash Wednesday, I have to say, the Australians are better prepared for bush fires. New Zealanders tend to be more complacent due to a lack of understanding of the enormous impact of bush fires on humans, animals and the environment.

"Most recently, February’s Tasman fires left 1000 animals in field shelters and up to 14,000 animals remaining on rural properties exposed to fire risk. Disasters have an extraordinary impact on animal welfare and we can do better,” says Squance.

“Pet ownership rates in New Zealand are among the highest in the world, with 64 percent of households owning a pet - a rate nearing the proportion of households with children. This percentage increases to approximately 90% on rural properties.”

Animal welfare emergency management is an emerging discipline within the greater emergency management sector. Squance says there is a need to improve the animal response coordination within the context of a multi-agency response which addresses animal welfare, human wellbeing and the environment collectively, rather than in individual silos.

“This is a niche area with very little research. But we can have some wins if we collect the evidence to show that certain processes will minimise the effects on animals and humans and reduce recovery times.”

Squance has worked through all phases of emergencies and as team leader of Massey University’s Vet Emergency Response Team she first activated as a responder during the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. Animal welfare was not part of the Civil Defence response framework at this time but did become part of the standard response in 2015, with MPI as the responsible agency. She also assisted with emergency animal response during Thailand’s 2011 floods and has responded to over 25 emergencies in the past two years.

As the 2019 Bob Kerridge Fellowship recipient, Hayley will receive $10,000 towards continuing her Animal Welfare in Wildfire project which will focus on analysing the two most recent wildfire events in New Zealand.

Recommendations coming out of this research will go towards forming a framework for organisations to use.

Long time animal advocate and welfarist, Bob Kerridge, said he established the Fellowship to support individuals and organisations who wanted to make a difference to animals and their welfare.

“We are delighted to award Hayley this year’s grant so she can utilise her past experience and expertise to find a way forward for animals caught up in wild fires. We are seeing more of these disasters with more people and animals living in fire susceptible environments,” said Bob.

“There is hope that this significant piece of work by Hayley will play an important role in mitigating damage to precious wildlife and animals in the event of future disasters.

“All animals are sentient beings and we are privileged to be sharing this planet with them. It is our duty to search for ways to enrich their ability to live in harmony with humans and the environment.”

About the Bob Kerridge Animal Welfare Fellowship

The Fellowship was set up last year by Bob Kerridge, a long time animal advocate and welfarist, and is awarded to projects that seek solutions to animal problems, and aim to create change, ultimately benefitting animals, people and the environment.

After more than 30 years of being a voice for New Zealand’s animals, Bob Kerridge’s legacy is to continue the work through others who are in a position to enhance the health and wellbeing of animals.

The Bob Kerridge Animal Welfare Fellowship provides an annual endowment of $10,000 which is awarded to a committed animal welfarist to fully explore their areas of interest. This may include an existing project or an opportunity to investigate, learn, network or develop leadership skills.

The Bob Kerridge Animal Welfare Fellowship is supported and sponsored by Jet Park Hotels.

Visit www.animalwelfarefellowship.org.nz for further information.


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