Caring for Pets and Animals During Floods

Pets are an important part of the family so it’s important to consider them when planning for floods.

Your pets are reliant on you during floods. Never leave pets behind if you evacuate and transport your pets appropriately (carry cages, muzzles and other safety equipment). If you are going to a relief centre, make sure they cater for pets or find somewhere to go outside of the flood area which does (family or friends).

RSPCA South Australia has developed a Pet Emergency Plan to help pet owners are well prepared to protect their pets in agencies. This can be found at http://www.rspcasa.org.au/the-issues/animals-in-emergencies/

 

What you can do to make your pets & animals FloodSafe:

Before

  • It is important to decide beforehand on a safe place to keep your animals during an emergency. In making this decision, the vital points to consider are whether the place is prone to flooding, severe winds, is at risk of flying debris, and whether it can be accessed after an extreme event.
  • If it is likely that you will need to evacuate your animals, you should determine when will be the most appropriate and safest time to do so. Also determine how much time is required to move your animals safely.
  • If you plan to stay, identify the location of higher ground away from the flood area and the best way to move your animals to this refuge. You should move your animals to these refuge areas in the event of a flood alert.
  • Relocate bulls and stallions from flood-prone areas when a flood alert is issued. They are not suitable for holding in confined spaces on a flood mound with other animals.
  • Consider safety risks for animals and humans before making any decision to move them.
  • Maintain feed reserves in accessible storage above the flood level. Remember wet conditions may make farm roads impassable.
  • Practise your disaster plan at least once a year.
  • If your animals are kept on another person’s property (agisted), talk to the property owner about the local risks and their plans for when it may flood. Many properties where agisted animals are kept can be in high flood risk areas such as close to creeks, rivers and other water ways. If there is the likelihood of flooding, it is important to make sure your agisted animals are safe.

During

  • When a flood threat develops, the SES is the agency responsible for controlling the response. PIRSA supports the SES by coordinating agriculture and animal support services, and undertakes this role with the help of various government and non-government organisations.
  • The SES, with the help of the Bureau of Meteorology, will provide flood information, including flood forecast’s and road closures, over local radio stations.
  • Animals can become stressed during flood events. Cows with calves at foot and mares with foals at foot will require special care.
  • Make sure the animals have access to a safe food and water source. As power may be lost, do not rely on automatic water systems unless you have a backup generator.
  • Do not enter floodwater on foot or in a vehicle. The water can be extremely misleading and will hide many hazards under the surface that could injure you, make you sick and even result in your death. Roads can suffer significant damage from floodwater and sections could be missing.

After

After a flood recedes the hard work begins. Animals may need veterinary care and feeding. Fences, yards, buildings, roads and bridges may need repair, and power and telecommunications services may need to be restored. Peoples’ homes require cleaning and restoration and their pets need to be brought home. Injured wildlife needs to be assessed and released back to the bush when fit enough.

During the recovery process safety precautions need to be adopted to prevent further damage or injury. These include:

  • before entering buildings check for structural damage
  • take extreme care when entering a building as escaped gas or other hazards may be present
  • make sure the power is turned off and try not to use any electricity until checked for safety
  • be wary of venomous snakes or wildlife that may be trapped inside buildings or disturbed by the flood
  • before animals are returned to a facility or property ensure all perimeter fences are intact and the facility is secure
  • keep animals off waterlogged soils for two to four weeks after flood waters subside to avoid soil degradation and allow pastures to recover
  • survey the area for hazards such as sharp objects, dangerous materials, live wires and contaminated water
  • check your animals for any injuries and release them into safe and enclosed areas, only during daylight
  • watch them closely for the next few hours. Often familiar areas and scents have changed which can confuse your animals and alter their behaviour. If your animals have been without food for a long period, reintroduce food slowly and in small portions. Allow free access to clean water. Do not give cold water
  • allow uninterrupted rest to recover from trauma or stress. Be patient with your animals after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be ready for behavioural problems that may result from the stress of the situation. If behavioural problems persist, or if your animals seem to be having any health problems, talk to your vet
  • check any animals that may have been standing in mud or water for extended periods as they can develop health problems.

Foot problems

All animals are susceptible to foot problems after long periods of immersion in water. Wet conditions can expose cases of dormant footrot. Foot abscess and other foot problems will be common where animals’ feet are constantly wet. Move animals to dry areas as soon as possible. If sheep must be yarded consider foot-bathing as they leave the yards to control foot abscess. Seek advice from your vet if you are unsure of the cause of lameness in your animals.

 

For information on creating a Pet Emergency Plan, visit the RSPCA website http://www.rspcasa.org.au/the-issues/animals-in-emergencies/