How to care for animals in a flood

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Many areas of New South Wales and Queensland experienced heavy rains and floods during 2021 that devastated communities, claimed lives and caused up to $1 billion in damage. As the La Niña summer weather system stabilizes, and climate change dramatically increases the intensity of precipitation events, flooding is likely to become more frequent and more severe as we approach 2022.

Flood events seriously affect not only human life and the economy, but also our beloved pets, precious wildlife and valuable livestock.

So what can we do to help keep animals safe when anticipating hurricanes, severe rain events, and floods?

Include animals in your planning

One of the best ways to keep pets safe is to include them in your home emergency plan. Identification and microchip tags must be up-to-date, properly attached, and securely registered. Plan a safe transportation for your pets. Make sure all veterinary records and medications are up-to-date and that you have several days of food, treats and water as well as any necessary medications. This way, you’ll be prepared to take care of your animal companions before, during, and after flood events.

Reduce the risk of grazing animals

Property owners usually have a good knowledge of the geography of their land including the river and stream systems that flooded in the past. But as the climate worsens, we need to prepare for the worst that could happen. Local councils, agricultural agencies, and emergency services are all good sources for more information and help.

Animals must be moved to a safe location, which may mean opening gates and even removing fences to allow the animals access to higher ground. In some cases, it may be necessary to evacuate and move the animals to another location entirely. Contingency plans may be needed to provide food and water if current supplies become unavailable or contaminated. Most production animals now have a permanent identification. This, along with good communication with neighbors, will help local authorities and the police in resettlement. After a flood event, producers should be aware of the potential consequences of diseases.

A picture of a cow in flood waters.

Practice and think ahead to perfect your plan

Most emergency services recommend practicing your emergency plan so that you are well prepared when the time comes. This is especially true when animals are part of your emergency plan, as the distress and chaos of the situation makes it easy for things to get derailed. Execute your plan before the worst happens, make sure you have backup options, and anticipate anything that could go wrong in the process. This is much easier to do without the threat of imminent danger.

Helping the local wildlife

It’s also important to think about how to help any native animals you might encounter in flood conditions. The best, easiest, and safest way to help if a miserable animal is found is to first seek advice from a lifeguard or wildlife vet. If you can and it is safe to do so, wrap the animal in a towel and contain it in a clean dark box in a warm area until trained professionals arrive. Wildlife rescue organizations and veterinarians can also advise about food or liquids to give to injured animals if rescue is not immediately possible.

Supporting climate action before the flood

It is also important to remember extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and flooding that are exacerbated by climate change caused by burning coal, oil and gas. While all of these tips to protect your animals are helpful, we also need the government to take action on climate change, to give wildlife and animals the best chance of surviving severe weather events in the future.

One of the most effective ways to achieve action is to get our federal government to drastically cut emissions this decade and make concrete plans to get to Net Zero as soon as possible. You can vote, email your local representative and attend rallies to ensure our pets, wildlife and livestock remain important and valuable members of our lives and our planet. By joining the vets for Climate Action, you can help in their goal to stop the climate crisis and secure a shared future for animals and humans. Stay safe and remember to heed all warnings from emergency services.

Additional Resources and Services

SES: 132,500

NSW Government Local Land Services – 299 795 1300 for emergency support in livestock management or flood impacts

The Queensland Government’s Queensland Business Service provides advice and contact numbers for preparing animals for natural disasters

To find your nearest qualified wildlife rescue service or vet, you can download this app.

You can create your own emergency plan here.

Wildlife helplines:

NSW: WIRES 1300 094737

Vic: Wildlife Victoria (03) 8400 7300


SA: Fauna Rescue of SA inc 08 8289 0896

WA: Wildcare WA (08) 9474 9055.

NT: Wildcare NT 08 8996121.

TAS: Bonorong Wildlife and Rescue Hospital 0447264625

ACT: ACT Wildlife 0432300 033

Evacuation centers:

Verify in advance that your nearest evacuation center is pet-friendly.

New South Wales evacuation centers

QLD Evacuation Centers

Emergency Services WA

Victoria Relief Centers

SA Emergency Information

NT . evacuation centers

Tasmania evacuation centers

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