The preparedness and evacuation behaviour of pet owners in emergencies and natural disasters

Melanie Taylor, Penelope Burns, Erin Lynch, Greg Eustace

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    This research describes the preparedness and the actual, or anticipated, evacuation behaviours of a sample of 352 pet owners in Australian who experienced a range of natural disasters or emergencies. Three quarters experienced a bushfire or flood (42 per cent and 33 per cent respectively) and around a third (34 per cent) evacuated their homes. Of those who evacuated, 29 per cent did so in less than one hour and 58 per cent returned within two days. Over two-thirds (69 per cent) stayed with family or friends when they evacuated. Many people evacuated with multiple combinations of pets. The majority of those who evacuated kept some of their pets with them (81 per cent) and 15 per cent left some pets behind; either enclosed in the home, released to escape, or unable to find/catch. Around the time of evacuation 42 per cent sought some form of immediate assistance, help or advice, with evacuation of their pets. Most turned to neighbours and friends (30 per cent), social media (9 per cent), or emergency services (8 per cent). In general, around a third of the sample felt they were �not really prepared� or were �unprepared� for the emergency event. Of those who reported they were prepared, around 70 per cent had planned to keep all their pets with them if they evacuated. The results of this study highlight the complexity of pet composition and the requirement for detailed household evacuation planning and early enactment of plans. In addition, the need for responsible pet ownership and pet-friendly destinations on evacuation was a clear requirement, with decisions to evacuate being influenced by this. It is hoped that the results of this study will provide a useful reference for emergency management agencies and aid planning and engagement with pet owners.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAustralian Journal of Emergency Management
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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