Are your pets part of your bushfire survival plan?

While the fear that the devastating impact to property, land and lives only seem to grow with each new bushfire season, some forethought, preparation and a written Bushfire Survival Plan that encompasses your family pets is key to minimising riskes and reducing stress for both your family and your pets.

Consider the following when preparing your Bushfire Survival Plan to include your pet:

Ensure your pet is clearly identifiable with a collar and name tag, and microchipped. Microchip details should include an emergency contact details for a person outside of the bushfire threatened area who could look after your pet if you are unable to. Cages should similarly have contact details on them.
Make a list of where you could house your pets if you decide to leave early. This may include boarding kennels, a veterinary clinic, a relative/friend’s place or you may be able to keep them with you. Make enquiries early as to the availability of these options.
Practise how you will move your pets if you leave. Know a variety of routes out of your loca-tion.
Discuss with neighbours how your pets might be protected in case you are not at home or cannot make it home during a bushfire. Keep in regular contact with your neighbours during the fire danger period to let them know your plans.
Have a Bushfire Relocation Kit (see below) for your pets stored within easy reach so you are ready to leave early.
Animals feel stress and anxiety as much as humans and how they may behave could be unpredictable. Animals may be difficult to catch and restrain if they are already distressed. Dogs can quickly chew through nylon leads, cats can scratch and bite. Bringing your pets inside, confining them in a small room early will avoid time being wasted searching for them while you make other preparations for evacuation. The sooner you decide to leave a property if there is a bushfire threat, the more controlled and stress free this will be. If you know there is likely to be an approaching time of high risk, consider moving animals to friends or family members well in advance. As a family you should discuss what will be the trigger for you to move your animals to safety. Indecision about the timing of this may have tragic consequences.

Cats, small dogs and other small pets (rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, etc) should be restrained within carry cages, before loading into your car. You should try to acclimatise your pets to these cages several times throughout the year. Cats could be placed inside pillow cases as an alternative to ease restraint and transport. Distressed animals roaming free in a car will add an unnecessary level of danger to the situation.

Prepare a Bushfire Relocation Kit for your pet Your bushfire relocation kit for pets should include:

  • Enough food and water for at least 3-5 days
  • A bowl for each pet • Litter and litter trays
  • A second collar/harness and lead for dogs
  • A carrier for cats and smaller pets – make sure the carrier is clearly labelled with your contact details • Bedding and a woollen blanket
  • A pet first aid kit – seek your vet’s advice
  • A favourite toy
  • Any medications your pet is taking plus a written list of them
  • Your pet’s medical history including proof of vaccination
  • Your vet’s contact details and details of your nearest emergency centre for animals (in the event your vet is closed or has been evacuated)
  • Contact details of local animal shelters and councils
  • Details of your pet insurance

Your Bushfire Relocation Kit for your pet should be kept together with other items of your Bushfire Survival Plan, including evacuation plans and directions to evacuation sites. All of these items should be easily available in one locale in case they are required urgently or you are ordered to evacuate. Near the front door ready to go is a good idea. Each family member in the house should be aware of where the essential items are located and be familiar with the evacuation plan so as to avoid confusion when the situation becomes more stressful.

If you intend staying to fight a bushfire, and were unable to move your pets to another locale in time, keep them in a secure room in the house with few windows such as a laundry or bathroom. Animals that can be placed in cages such as birds and cats, should have a wet woollen blanket covering the cage. Make sure they have plenty of water available to drink. Keeping your pets secured will avoid injury to themselves and also prevent them from hindering your efforts to protect your home.

If a bushfire is approaching and there is an imminent threat of danger, animals should not be tethered, constrained or caged outside as they will then have no way of saving themselves if necessary.

Pet injuries after a fire

If your pet has suffered burn injuries during a fire, they must receive immediate treatment. Cool the burnt areas with luke-warm water for 15 minutes, then take your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic. If you pet is suffering from smoke inhalation immediately take them to an open area where there is fresh air, if it is safe to do so. Once your pets breathing has improved or consciousness has return, proceed to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. If there is no improvement after 15 minutes of fresh air, still proceed to a veterinary clinic.

Unfortunately lives, both human and animal, have been lost when people have been unprepared for dealing with bushfires and have made last minute decisions to save their pets. Preparation and planning are essential to avoiding tragedy during time of extreme bushfire threat and keeping our beloved pets and family safe.

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