With the bushfire season underway and fires burning in areas of NSW and Queensland, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is warning of serious impacts of bushfires on wildlife, livestock and pets.
AVA president, Dr Julia Crawford, said that with so many Australians living in bushfire zones it was critical that they were prepared in an emergency and pet owners should include their pets and livestock in any emergency plans.
According to the AVA website, it was important to be prepared for all types of natural disasters to ensure that horses, livestock and people remained safe.
It said owners should make sure their emergency kit was prepared at the start of the fire season.
Owners should decide on a safe place to keep their horse and livestock prior to an emergency.
"If it's likely that you will need to evacuate your horse or livestock, you should determine when it will be the most appropriate and safest time to do so," the AVA said.
Landholders should practice their disaster plan at least once before each disaster season.
Dr Campbell said in terms of pets, the decision to evacuate or stay at home was always a critical one.
"Try to confine your pets to the safest enclosed room of the house, such as the bathroom, where they can be quickly collected if you need to leave urgently, and make sure you have their carry cages and leads on hand," she said.
"Put together an emergency kit for your animals with lots of non-perishable food and water in spill-proof containers.
"If you become separated from your pet in an emergency evacuation advise local vets, animal welfare shelters and rescue organisations. It's crucial that your pet is microchipped and registered with the local council to make it easier to be re-united in an emergency," Dr Crawford said.
Fires were also a threat to wildlife.
"While it's absolutely tragic when wildlife is destroyed or injured in a bushfire it's important not to put your own life at risk when rescuing an animal.
"Extra care should be taken with venomous or aggressive animals. If you find injured or orphaned wildlife call your nearest wildlife rescue organisation or local vet," Dr Crawford said.
Horse register needed
The AVA also highlighted that the bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland, plus those earlier this year in Victoria, reinforced the need for an immediate implementation of a national horse register.
The AVA's Equine Veterinarians Australia group president, Dr Sam Nugent, said that "efficient, practical and functional radiofrequency identification (RFID) devices and a national horse register would provide traceability to ensure that we can easily return horses to their rightful owner following any natural disaster".
"If we review the evidence from the extreme bushfires in Victoria this year, we found that tracing the owners of horses which were found after the event, sometimes injured and in need of treatment, was extremely difficult," he said.
"In the wake of recent events, the EVA urges all horse owners to act to ensure that the identity of their horses is secured."
AVA resources on protecting horses, livestock and pets in natural disasters are available for download from the AVA website at https://www.vetvoice.com.au/ec/animals-and-natural-disasters/