The AAWS and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) have continued to advance the issue of caring for animals in emergencies, co-sponsoring the third National Workshop on Plans for Animals in Disasters held in Melbourne last month.
Approximately 60 participants attended representing the AAWS, WSPA, State/Territory and local governments, emergency services, RSPCA, Red Cross, Australian Veterinary Association, media and social researchers.
The workshop was opened by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Victorian Premier, Craig Ondarchie MP, who highlighted his personal connection with this issue through the Black Saturday Victorian Fires in 2009, while Craig Lapsley, Victorian Fire Services Commissioner, was a keynote speaker on protecting communities and animals in disasters.
A number of important case studies were also considered on people and animal crises in Australia: Impact of ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald, harvesting social networking in the Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley floods and the Tasmanian bushfires in 2013.
The meeting identified the need to improve sharing of current knowledge on climate change work and efforts to assist adaptive capacity of communities through risk assessments and mitigation approaches down to the property level. Work was presented on the development of a national framework for tracking progress through the Climate Adaptation Outlook 2013 report.
However, further advice is needed on current important psychosocial research into the dynamics of the human-animal bond, including Australian Research Council work on ‘Should I stay or go’, and work being funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centres on pets and preparedness.
Also stressed was the importance of communications and building trusted networks that can be activated during emergencies. With decreasing government resources at all levels, embracing social media is a priority, as demonstrated by Queensland authorities during a number of flood emergencies.
The meeting endorsed the National Planning Principles for Animals in Disasters. These were previously endorsed by the national Animal Welfare Committee in June 2013 and are being progressed for endorsement by the Australia New Zealand Emergency Management Committee.
The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture will now work with the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department and the Victorian Government to progress the National Planning Principles.
The Interim National Advisory Committee will meet and consider the outcomes of the workshop, including how to further assist the promotion and use of the National Planning Principles to improve plans for people and animals at the all level of governments and communities.
AUSAWAC will also consider this issue at its meeting in December 2013 and have a special session on people and animals in disasters at the 8th AAWS National Workshop in 2014.
There was also acknowledgement of the significant work done at the local government level to develop and advance local planning for people and animals in disasters, including the establishment of networks and the identification of experts and an inventory of equipment that could be shared across regions during disaster events.
WSPA has been working at the frontline on international catastrophes with humanitarian organisations to assist devastated communities and their animals. It has offered to provide training in Australia on the internationally recognised Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS).
Findings and recommendations from the workshop will be captured in Workshop Proceedings.