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Animal welfare lessons from Chch quakes revealed in book

Animal welfare lessons from Christchurch quakes revealed in book

A new book that explores the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes on animals, and the lessons we can learn in animal welfare from the natural disaster, has been published by Canterbury University Press.

Animals in Emergencies: Learning from the Christchurch earthquakes, co-authored by Associate Professor Annie Potts and former veterinary nurse Donelle Gadenne, both researchers at Canterbury University’s New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies, provides a detailed historical record of what happened to many animals in the Christchurch earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011.

The book includes stories of front-line rescuers, shelter workers and animal advocates who saved and sheltered animals during and after the earthquakes. This work involved a range of species, from cats, dogs, horses and parrots to rats, hedgehogs and turtles. The book also confronts issues relating to wildlife, zoo animals and farmed animals in emergency situations, including those who were affected by the earthquakes.

Animals in Emergencies focuses on animal welfare in emergencies and includes guidelines on how people can protect their animals. The book also provides an illustrated narrative history of how animals and people helped each other following the Christchurch earthquakes, and provides important information on ensuring safety and welfare of different species during natural disasters.

Annie Potts and Donelle Gadenne say they wanted to write the book as a tribute to those from Christchurch and other parts of New Zealand who saved and cared for thousands of the city's affected animals.

“When the first earthquake struck in September 2010, I was absolutely appalled at the reported high number of animal fatalities including 3000 chickens, eight cows, one dog, a lemur and 150 aquarium fish,” Professor Potts says.

“This struck me as preventable and inexcusable, and made me start thinking more about animal welfare and advocacy in disasters. And then, when the tragic February earthquake happened, I was very conscious of the human lives lost in such traumatic ways, but I also thought about how the city's animals would be adversely affected.

“Early on there were reports of concerned guardians of companion cats and dogs trying to break through cordons into the red zoned CBD to rescue the animals they'd had to leave behind or couldn't return to. Many stories of human and animal courage and survival, as well as bereavement and displacement, were emerging each day in the news.

“We share our city and our lives with all kinds of species who were also profoundly affected by the quakes and liquefaction, and so over a period of months I thought it would be both a fitting tribute to these animals and to those who rescued and cared for them, if some record of their experiences also existed and could hopefully improve emergency procedures involving animals in future catastrophes,” she says.

Professor Potts said she hopes the book will teach readers about the importance of preparing for the welfare and safety of all family members, including companion animals, should disaster strike.

“The thing about emergencies is that we cannot predict exactly when they will occur, so it's important to be prepared well in advance. One of our main aims with the book is to raise awareness and educate people about the awful impacts natural or human-made disasters can have on animals incarcerated in farms and laboratories,” she says.

Animals in Emergencies: Learning from the Christchurch earthquakes, by Annie Potts and Donelle Gadenne , Published by Canterbury University Press, November 2014, RRP $39.99, Paperback, 288 pp, ISBN: 978-1-927145-50-0.


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