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Zealand, a country which has various hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes, wildfires and severe weather events, only 14% of the population are fully prepared.3 The best-case scenario is to keep people with their
pets. This is achievable through greater education and preparedness of communities. There are on-going efforts in some countries to create pet-friendly emergency welfare centres. However, further work is required
homes. This is an opportunity for the veterinary profession to show community support through contribution to such packs. The most helpful addition to such a pack would be advice regarding pet care following a disaster event (e.g. dealing with pet behavioural issues following a disaster).
The veterinary profession has a unique opportunity for communicating and motivating vulnerable people to engage in resilience building behaviors that promote survival and facilitate recovery from a disaster. Veterinary professionals can offer a safe-haven for animal owners during a disaster event, and can advocate for keeping people with their pets. Additionally, veterinarians can participate in outreach programmes during the recovery phase, and advise on animal-welfare impacts following a disaster.
1. Friedmann E., & Heesook S (2009) The human-companion animal bond: How humans benefit, Vet Clin Small Anim 39, 293–326
2. Thompson, K., Every D., Rainbird, S., Cornell, V., Smith B., & Trigg J., (2014) No Pet or Their Person Left Behind: Increasing the Disaster Resilience of Vulnera- ble Groups through Animal Attachment, Activities and Networks, Animals 2014, 4, 214-240 search-and-evaluation/get-ready-get-thru-campaign-evaluation/ accessed April 20184. Gill D. A., 2007, Secondary trauma or secondary disasters?: Insights from Hurricane Katrina, Journal of Sociological Spectrum, V 27, 2007, 6
5. Astill, S., & Millar E., 2018, ‘The trauma of the cyclone has changed us for ever’: self-reliance, vulnerability and resilience among older adult Australians in cyclone prone areas. Aging and Society, 38:2, pp 403-429
6. Garde E, Acosta-Jamett G, Bronsvoort B. Review of the risks of some canine zoonoses from free-roaming dogs in the post-disaster setting of Latin America. Animals (Basel). 2013;3(3):855 –865.
7. Schneider MC, Tirado MC, Dugas R, et al. Natural disasters and communicable diseases in the Americas: contribution of veterinary public health. Vet Ital. 2012; 48(2):193 –218
8. Tabbaa D. Control of zoonoses in emergency situations: lessons learned during recent outbreaks (gaps and weaknesses of current zoonoses control programmes). Vet Ital. 2008;44(4):611–620.
for this to become a standard consideration during disaster planning. The veterinary profession needs to take a proactive approach to ensure local council and government bodies recognize the importance of preparing pet-owners for emergencies, and in establishing more consistent supply of pet-friendly welfare shelters.
The recovery phase – an additional challenge
During the recovery phase communities may become fragmented and social support networks may be
lost. The number of socially isolated or vulnerable people may rise. During this time, people who have lost their homes will be transitioning from emergency accommodation arrangements to temporary accommodation. In many instances due to housing shortages, the stock of available accommodation is insufficient, and finding accommodation that allows for pets may be even more of a challenge.
It is during this time that displaced people need as much psychosocial assistance as possible due to secondary trauma caused by the accumulative effect of additional stressors during the recovery efforts.4 Dealing with insurance companies, banks, councils and builders can cause a significant amount of stress even more so than the actual event, hence why it is called the secondary trauma. Additionally, the event has long gone from media attention, and this can further compound the isolation felt due to still being in the disaster, and everyone else has moved on.
There are several ways that veterinary professionals can help during the recovery phase. Firstly, continuing to advocate for pets to stay with their owners where possible. Secondly, accepting donations (pay-it-forward) to assist with care of patients whose clients are no longer able to afford veterinary care. Thirdly prevention of transmissible diseases following a disaster (e.g. leptospirosis vaccination of dogs following flooding) and finally, discounted microchipping of unchipped pets to enable identification of pets should they go missing in the disruption following a natural disaster. In addition, veterinarians should observe clients for signs of mental health issues or distress, and know what services are should there be concerns about client well-being.
Following a disaster, local government or support agencies may hand out welcome home packs to homeowners when they return to rebuilt or repaired
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