Pet owners warned to prepare bushfire survival plan as fire danger season continues
The Blanchard family take extra precautions with their pets when there is a risk of a bushfire. (ABC News: Courtney Howe)
Fire authorities and the RSPCA have issued a warning to pet owners to have a bushfire survival plan ready for their animals — as well as themselves — ahead of severe heat early next week in South Australia.
- Experts warn that an evacuation plan for pets ahead of a potential bushfire is vital
- RSPCA says having to transport pets in an emergency can be stressful
- High temperatures are expected across the nation again in the coming weeks
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has forecast temperatures in Adelaide of 35 degrees Celsius for Sunday, 39C for Monday and 41C for Tuesday as a high fire danger rating remains in place in several districts.
Brett Loughlin from the South Australian Country Fire Service said not having an evacuation plan for pets could be fatal for both animals and owners.
“It is a real risk to people,” he said.
“Every time we find a fire threatens communities we find people who aren’t prepared, therefore making compromises to decisions to how they’re going to manage their own safety and that of their pets.
“Gathering cats, dogs or even horses once a bushfire warning message has been issued can be extremely stressful.”
RSPCA SA chief inspector Andrea Lewis said not having a plan for pets could end in tragedy.
A firefighter carries out a dog from a bushfire in the Perth Hills in 2013. (Department of Fire and Emergency Services)
“Think about how you will transport your pets, where you will take them and who will take responsibility,” she said.
“It is important to practice the movement of your animals to understand how much time you need to allow.
“By having a plan that your family understands and is well across, it will reduce some of the stress if you are threatened by bushfire.”
Ms Lewis said pet owners could reduce the stress of evacuating their animals by moving them to a friend or relative’s home in the days leading up to high fire danger.
“Preparation is key,” she said.
“It’s one less thing you need to consider as part of your survival plan.”
She also recommended putting food, water, bedding, water bowls and any medication the pet required into an emergency kit to take during an evacuation.
Boarding kennels need to be prepared too
A Tea Tree Gully boarding kennel lost a number of animals during a bushfire. (ABC News: Tom Fedorowytsch)
Four years ago, Carolyn Jones boarded her two dogs at a kennel at Tea Tree Gully in Adelaide’s north-east, while her family went on a holiday.
The suburb sits at the base of the Adelaide Hills and was hit by the devastating Sampson Flat bushfire.
“We were travelling through Tasmania and got news that there was a serious bushfire in the area where they were boarding,” Ms Jones said.
“We got the really distressing news that all of the dogs had been killed in the kennels.
“We have three children and all of them were crying.”
However, the information the family had received was incorrect and their dogs were safe.
More than 40 dogs and cats were killed, while firefighters and volunteers managed to save 45 others.
“They were taken to a vet and being treated for smoke inhalation because the fire had literally swept over the top of them,” Ms Jones said.
Now a media manager for the RSPCA in South Australia — Ms Jones said boarding kennels located in bushfire prone areas also needed to have a fire evacuation plan.
Pet owners prepared for fire
Keira and Lee Blanchard live at Ironbank in the Adelaide Hills and own dogs, rabbits, donkeys, birds and pigs.
“All of our plans incorporate not only us, but our entire family — furry, feathered and all,” Ms Blanchard said.
“We actually have more than one plan because it does depend on the situation and the conditions.
“Sometimes we’re at work, sometimes we won’t be at work and so our plan has to vary to take in those things.”
Ms Blanchard said familiarising their pets with carriers and crates used to transport them helped.
Ms Blanchard said the family could not transport their donkeys from their property as they do not own a float. (ABC News: Courtney Howe)
“They all are familiar with those carriers, so that they know what they are like and what it’s like going into them,” she said.
However, not all of their pets are easy to move.
The couple does not own a float —and they would not be able to transport their donkeys from their property if needed.
“We are reliant on knowing people in the community who do have horse floats and can assist us if we need to evacuate them,” Ms Blanchard said.
“We have to face the reality that for some of our animals, evacuation isn’t possible.”
Mr Blanchard is a volunteer firefighter and said he had used tips from the CFS website to set up the couple’s property to give the animals that had to stay the best chance of survival.
“It’s an inevitability that something is going to happen at some point,” Mr Blanchard said.
“We live in this beautiful area, we accept that the risk is very prevalent.”