During a natural disaster such as a bushfire, extreme weather (storms, floods, heatwaves) or earthquake, it may be necessary to evacuate from your home. It is important to have an emergency plan in place which includes your animals.
What should I do to prepare for an emergency?
- Sign up for alerts from your local emergency agency
- Work out where you could evacuate your pet
- Create a 3-step Pet Emergency Plan
- Share this information with friends and family who also have pets
1. Sign up for alerts from your local emergency agency
You need the most relevant and up-to-date emergency and natural disaster information for your area and your circumstances in order to stay safe. Sign up to alerts, follow emergency services on Twitter or Facebook, check emergency services’ websites for updated information or call your local emergency hotline (such as those listed in the table below). Local emergency services will be able to guide you on if/when to evacuate and how to keep your animal safe in that scenario.
|South Australia||CFS Bushfire information hotline: 1800 362 361
PIRSA Agriculture and Animal Services Hotline: 1800 255 556
ABC Local Radio
@csfalerts and @cfstalk on Twitter
SA Country Fire Service’s Facebook page
Alert SA Mobile App
CFS website (lists/links to other sources of information also)
|Western Australia||DFES Hotline: 13 3337
SES Hotline: 132 500
ABC Local Radio
@dfes_wa on Twitter
Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA Facebook page
|Northern Territory||Fire Assistance Hotline: 08 8999 3473
NT SES Hotline: 132 500
SecureNT list of shelters
Bushfires NT Facebook Page
|Queensland||QLD SES Hotline: 132 500
Local Disaster Coordination Centre Hotline: 1300 362 242
@QldFES on Twitter
QFES Facebook Page
Queensland Disaster Management website (lists/links to other sources of information also)
|New South Wales||Agriculture and Animal Services hotline: 1800 814 647
NSW SES Hotline: 132 500
@NSWRFS on Twitter
NSW Disaster Recovery’s Facebook Page
NSW Emergency website (lists/links to other sources of information also)
|Victoria||VicEmergency Hotline: 1800 226 226
Victorian emergency animal welfare corner hotline: 136 186
VIC SES Hotline: 132 500
ABC local radio
@CFA_Updates on Twitter
|Australian Capital Territory||ACTESA Hotline: 132 500
666 ABC Canberra on the radio
@ACT_ESA on Twitter
ACTESA’s Facebook Page
|Tasmania||TasALERT’s Facebook Page
ABC Local Radio
TasALERT website (lists/links to other sources of information also)
TFS website (lists/links to other sources of information also)
(Note that these were accurate at the time of publishing of this article but that these may change at any time without notice. Please seek advice from your local authority for up-to-date information specific to your circumstances.)
In a life-threatening emergency, call 000 (landline) or 112 (mobile) immediately.
2. Work out where you could evacuate your pet
Finding a safe place for your animal can be challenging, especially for horses and farmed animals. Before an emergency happens, take time to investigate potential places as part of your emergency or bushfire plan. This will help to avoid a delay in evacuating your home and keep all of your family safe. To avoid unnecessary risks to you and your pets, move them to a safe place when emergency conditions are forecast (for example, when catastrophic fire risk is declared for the next day or a severe flood watch warning is issued). Spending a short time away is better than taking the risk of being caught out or trapped by rapidly-changing, life-threatening conditions. And it provides an opportunity for you to practice your plan.
Potential evacuation sites
There are many options for relocating you and your animals in the case of an evacuation. Make sure you know these options and include your first preference as well as alternatives in your evacuation plan. You may not be able to relocate to your first preference due to the natural disaster warning or fire spreading to an area that was previously safe, roads being closed or blocked or, in the case of friends and family, changing personal circumstances affecting their ability to accommodate you. The best option for you and your animal(s) depends on where you are and what type of animal(s) you have.
- Homes of friends or family outside of the risk area;
- Boarding facilities in a safe area;
- Animal care centres such as the RSPCA or local council pounds, if they are out of the risk area and able to adequately care for evacuated animals;
- Pet-friendly evacuation centres set up by emergency department officials; and
- For horses and farmed animals, safe agistment sites, showgrounds and saleyards that may be set up by local emergency department officials.
Pet-friendly evacuation centres
Evacuation Centres (ECs) are temporary sites set up by the local emergency agency to house people, and often their animals, in tents and repurposed buildings such as schools and stadiums. ECs may also provide emergency supplies and information and may help reunite you with other family members . ECs should be your last resort, as these facilities place significant stress on local authorities’ resources that could be used for more vulnerable people if you have other viable options . Whether evacuation centres allow animals on site varies. In general, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland either have limited options in ECs for animals or do not allow animals in ECs [3,4].
Several pet-friendly ECs have been pre-organised, as below. Note that these were accurate at the time of publishing of this article but that these may change at any time without notice. Please seek advice from your local authority (see Table 1 above) for up-to-date information specific to your circumstances.
|South Australia||Human relief centres may organise support for companion animals during an emergency. Call the AAS Hotline (1800 255 556) for assistance. If you need shelter for your animal(s), you can register at the relief centre for temporary accommodation.|
|Western Australia||Mobile Animal Welfare Response Trailers are sometimes set up adjacent to certain evacuation centres during an emergency (for example, those that have been set up at places such as Cannington Leisureplex, Riverton Leisureplex, Bentley Community Hall or Lynwood Wandarah Hall)
Call the WA SES Hotline to confirm the location of these: 132 500
|Northern Territory||Carpark shelters (sheltered carparks in which you can keep your pet restrained in the car)
Call the NT SES Hotline for suitable animal housing close to evacuation centres: 132 500
|Queensland||Call the LDCC Hotline for suitable animal housing close to evacuation centres: 1300 362 242|
|New South Wales||All human evacuation centres are usually able accommodate companion animals
DPI list of animal safe places, including for livestock
The NSW government website lists bush fire evacuation centres that allow animals, including domestic pets and livestock
For emergency fodder or stock water, animal assessment or veterinary services, call the Agricultural and Animal Services Hotline on 1800 814 647 or you can send a direct message to the NSW DPI Facebook Page
NSW Rural Fire Service
National Farmers' Federation
South East Local Land Services
Riverina Local Land Services
|Victoria||Most human relief centres in the local councils can accommodate small animals
Livestock may be housed in local saleyards or showgrounds; for example, the East Gippsland Livestock Exchange
|Australian Capital Territory||All human evacuation centres should be able to accommodate small animals
Horses may be housed in local stables or showgrounds; for example, the EPIC stables and Queanbeyan Showground
|Tasmania||All human evacuation centres should be able to accommodate small animals|
3. Create a 3-Step Pet Emergency Plan
Research shows that having a clear, written plan in the case of an emergency saves lives . Follow this simple guide to create your own written emergency plan that includes your pet:
1. Include your pet(s) in your emergency survival plan
This includes ensuring your pet is trained to use a leash or be in a carrier/crate, and is comfortable being in public spaces or being transported. Make sure your pet is registered and microchipped, and that the microchip details are up-to-date. Identify the specific circumstances that will trigger you to consider evacuating you and your pet.
2. Prepare your Pet Emergency Kit
This includes all the supplies that you and your pet will need for a short stay away and that will help you get temporary accommodation for them. This includes food, medication, litter/litter trays or poo bags, registration and vaccination certificates, veterinary history, proof of ownership and emergency contact numbers.
3. Practice your survival plan
Set time aside to practice your plan to make sure you are familiar with it in an emergency.
For small animals, you can follow RSPCA South Australia’s detailed guide to create your plan today. For horses, you can follow the My Horse Disaster Plan guide.
4. Share this information with friends and family who also have pets
Not everyone will have had the time or opportunity to start preparing early for an emergency, so make sure you share this page and relevant emergency contacts with friends and family.
A little planning goes a long way
There is a lot to consider in the case of an emergency or natural disaster. Make sure you are prepared well in advance so you can keep your pet safe in any circumstances.
: SEMC Evacuations Working Group (June 2014) Major Evacuation Centre Guideline (accessed 13 Jan 2020)
: Emergency Services Agency (n.d.) Emergency Grab and Go Booklet (accessed 15 Jan 2020)
: Primary Industries & Regions SA (28 June 2018) Managing Animals in Emergencies
: SecureNT (2020) Emergency Shelters (accessed 14 Jan 2020)
: Victoria State Emergency Service (2020) Emergency Plans and Kits (accessed 20 Jan 2020