How to get animal ready for a volcanic eruption.

Mt Ruapehu

With the Volcanic Alert Level being raised to Level 2 by GNS Science, this signals the potential for an volcanic eruption. Though there is no need to panic, the unsettled volcanic mountain’s activity is a gentle reminder of the hazards we and our animals live with. It is important to use this time before an eruption to get prepared and get a plan in place. 

2018 Hawaiian Eruption

There is a growing volume of empirical evidence that suggests that wherever there has been mandatory evacuations and animals (in particular pets or companion animals) have been left behind, that the owners will risk their own lives and covertly or overtly breach cordons to rescue their pets.

The 2018 eruption of the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island on Hawaii led to evacuations of over 1,700 people who were at risk from lava flow and other volcanic hazards.

Brad Stanfill said the lava was more than 5 kilometres from his house but he was not allowed in because of a mandatory evacuation order. He was frustrated because he wanted to feed his rabbits and dogs and check on his property (Stuff, 2018).

As disaster management scholars Erik Auf der Heide, Drabek, Quarantelli and Dynes have all wisely said in regards to likely vs. correct behaviour:

Emergency planning is about designing plans on what people are likely to do… Plans are much easier to change than human behaviour.

The correct behaviour that emergency officials want is for people to conform to their instructions and accept animals are not as important as humans. However, this futile and outdated mindset fails to consider the likely behaviour of animal owners and animal rights groups who will put themselves in harms way to save disaster at risk animals.

Therefore, if an evidence informed approach to emergency management is to be followed, failing to protect animals in disaster will compromise the safety of people.

Tips for keeping pets safe

Before an eruption

  • Ensure you have a family emergency plan that includes your animals
  • Ensure all your pets are microchipped
  • If you pet has as collar, ensure it has identification tag with a mobile phone number on it (no your residential land line as you may not be able to get home in an emergency)
  • Ensure you have several photos (particular face) of your pet
  • Save animal records (veterinary, vaccinations, insurance, photos etc) to cloud storage/email
  • Have a pet evacuation kit
    • pet carrier/crate for each animal
    • Ensure each dog has a muzzle available so they can be handled by officials
    • Vaccination/de-worming records
    • Food and water
    • Leash for each dog
    • brushes
    • Familiar toy/blanket
    • Sanitation supplies (cleaner, wipes, poo bags, kitty litter etc)

If an eruption is possible

  • Bring your pets indoors and prepare for evacuation
    • toilet cats inside so you can easily find them in case of evacuation
    • ensure you have suitable transportation available and ready
  • Ensure you are subscribed to local warning systems
  • Monitor the news for updates
  • Confirm alternative pet friendly accommodation for your family
    • this could be with other family or pet friendly hotels etc
  • Consider evacuating early – evacuating with animals can be time consuming

If an eruption is imminent or in progress

  • Keep your animals out of low lying areas (where toxic volcanic gases can accumulate)
  • Pet jackets may be useful to minimising contamination from volcanic ash
  • Always ensure your pets are not loose inside a vehicle when evacuating
  • Ensure water given is not contaminated by ash
  • If you animals become contaminated by volcanic ash
    • contact your veterinarian for advice
    • brush off excess ash outside (under shelter)
    • check eyes for contamination, flush with water if needed
    • place ash and other contaminated waste into sealed plastic bag
  • If your animal starts to have difficulties breathing, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Evacuate early and if you think you need assistance, ask for this as early as possible

Other useful information

Information on the hazards of volcanic ash can be viewed here.

Information on the impact of volcanic ash on livestock can be viewed here.

Get your free pet owners preparedness guide here


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