As a reprieve in the heavy rains arrives, Veterinarians for Climate Action (VfCA) is concerned about the impact of the floods on domestic pets, livestock and wildlife.
Dr Angela Frimberger, VfCA member and veterinary oncologist from the Port Macquarie area, says the impact on animals and their owners in her local community is devastating.
“The impact of the bushfires and now the floods on our local pets, livestock and wildlife has been devastating. We are hearing horrific stories from cattle washed out to sea, to horses swept away from paddocks and pets trapped in homes as floodwaters rise. It breaks my heart to imagine the terror these creatures must be feeling.
“The intensity of heavy rainfall events and flooding has been turbo-charged by climate change. This is harming Australian lives, livelihoods and our pets and livestock. Enough is enough,” Dr Frimberger said.
Dr Helen Scott-Orr, former Chief Veterinary Officer of NSW and former Executive Director with NSW Agriculture, has extensive experience of emergency responses to extreme weather events. She says it could take weeks to get a full tally of the loss of animal life.
“Unfortunately, animal owners need to prepare for more extreme and more frequent weather events. These are inevitable due to accelerating, human-induced climate change.”
“Extreme weather events like flooding will continue to worsen unless politicians take urgent climate action. I have seen the impacts first hand. To protect ourselves, our animals and ecosystems, our governments must assist the transition from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to renewable energy as quickly as possible,” Dr Scott-Orr said.
In the meantime, the key to mitigating impacts of extreme weather events affecting animals is preparation:
Have an evacuation plan and kit for your pets as well as for yourself
Ensure you have a lead, harness or crate, as applicable, for all your pets and that both the animals and their equipment are easily accessible
Make sure your pets have up to date ID tags
Move any livestock to high ground as soon as possible, as conditions can change extremely quickly and frightened animals are much more difficult to work with
If working in flood water, be cautious of debris that can cause injury or entanglement.
Put out clean water and food if suitable
Control dogs and cats even more than usual – wild animals will be exhausted and stressed, and their usual escape routes may be blocked
Be extra careful driving – animals may be confused and their normal migration routes may be altered
If you see a distressed wild animal, don’t approach it unless you have special training. Call your local wildlife rescue service such as WIRES (1300 094 737).