Pets and livestock

The care and transport of pets and livestock before, during and after a fire is rarely mentioned in regard to bushfire prevention and safety. The loss of a loved pet is just as upsetting especially for children, as the loss of a home and personal possessions. You can avoid the heartache if you include pets and livestock when you develop your bushfire survival plan.

The RSPCA has information on Pet Emergency Plans on its website.

Small animals (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits etc)

Young animals are especially vulnerable to heat.

Forward planning

  • Ensure your dogs and cats are identified and registered with the local council to increase the chance of being reunited if you become separated.
  • Get your animals used to travel when young. Take them on regular car journeys so they are comfortable travelling and don't get carsick.
  • Be sure that you can adequately restrain or confine your pet, as it may become frightened and panic in a fire.
  • Dogs: check you have collars, leads or a harness and a muzzle if dog is aggressive.
  • Cats, rabbits, guinea pigs: use a secure cage or firmly tied pillow case or carry bag.
  • Birds, ferrets, mice: also use a secure cage or box with air holes.
  • Fish: transport in a wide necked jar with a secure lid and fill with 2/3 water (include a plastic straw to blow air into water now and again).
  • Snakes and lizards: use a secure box with small air holes or a firmly tied pillow case or carry bag.
  • Frogs: transport in a small tub with 2cm of water in bottom and air holes in lid.
  • Ensure your pets' vaccinations are up to date in case they need to be placed in a pet boarding facility.

If your family has decided to leave early in the event of a bushfire then be sure to remember your pets when preparing your 'relocation kit'. Consider including:

  • plastic containers for water
  • small amount of food (dry food is best for dogs and cats)
  • medication (such as daily heartworm tablet)
  • litter or newspaper
  • an information list containing your:
    • name
    • address
    • phone number
    • pets name
    • medical history
    • food requirements
    • vets phone number.

On Fire Danger Days

  • Learn more about fire danger ratings
  • If you have to go to work decide whether to take your animals to a safer place before leaving home. Keep in mind that if there is a fire you may not be allowed home for some time.
  • If you are home shut your pets inside the house so they are close by. Check your relocation kit to ensure you have leads and containers of water ready if you plan to leave in the event of a fire.
  • If you do plan to leave early, do so while it is still safe to go. Handle your pets firmly but reassuringly. Restrain dogs and confine other animals in cages or suitable containers. Cover cages with a woollen blanket or wet towel and secure all pets in the car. 

Larger animals (cattle, sheep and goats etc)

Large stock animals will tend to look after themselves if given large areas to keep safe in.

Forward planning

Your options will depend on the size of your property, the number of stock you have and where your animals are kept. However, the following suggestions may be useful.

Identify the 'safest' paddock on your property or neighbouring property. For example, one which:

  • contains a water supply
  • has clear access
  • is well grazed with minimum fuel to carry fire
  • is well fenced.

Consider:

  • Fencing the 'safe' paddock with steel or concrete posts so it is fireproof.
  • What may happen to electric fencing if the power supply is cut off during a fire.
  • Having gates in internal property boundaries so stock can be easily moved to other areas without being taken down a road.
  • Moving stock into the 'safe' paddock the night before a Fire Danger Day if you will be at work during the day
  • Thoroughly watering the 'safe' paddock the night before a Total Fire Ban Day.

If fire threatens

The following suggestions apply to horses but may help you with other types of livestock:

  • Hose your animals all over and do not scrape off.
  • Remove all equipment from your animal - rugs burn, plastic headstalls melt and metal buckles may get hot.
  • Move the animals into an open space with the least vegetation.
  • DO NOT shut animals into a stable or small yard. Animals will suffer minimal burns if given the maximum space and can cope well on their own if they can move into the open.
  • If animals do sustain burns the best form of immediate first aid is sponging with cold water until proper veterinary care is available.

Bushfire survival tips for horse owners

Are you prepared for bushfire? Have you and your family practised your plan? 

You are responsible for your own horses.

Here is a sample kit for your horse:

  • Feed for at least 3 days
  • Buckets
  • Copies of horse identification, veterinary records & proof of ownership
  • Spare head collars with long leads (not nylon)
  • Blankets / rugs – natural fibre
  • Fluorescent spray paint, Livestock Marking Crayon
  • Recorded diet for your animals
  • Recorded dose and frequency for each medication your horse uses. Provide veterinary contact information for refills.
  • Post detailed instructions in several places at home – Animal ID + your photo for any stock left behind.

Ensure you have battery-powered radios and extra batteries and tune to your local ABC radio.  In Adelaide this is 891.

 A quick checklist

If you are a horse owner, horse organisation or horse event manager you need to make sure you help yourself, the CFS and your neighbours. You can:

  1. Prepare a Bushfire Survival Plan, share it with staff, volunteers, club members and agistment clients.
  2. Advise your local CFS if there is an event or "gathering" of horses in your area.
  3. Keep informed during danger periods by using a battery powered radio to monitor for bushfire messages (power may go out) or by calling the Bushfire Information Hotline number: 1300 362 361.
  4. Make sure your property has a Property Identification Code (PIC) number and that your horses are listed as being on that property. Obtain this from Primary Industries SA (PIRSA) - phone (08) 8207 7900 or download the registration application form. This helps logistics /planning in any type of emergency. All properties with one or more horses are legally required to have a PIC number.
  5. Uniquely identify each horse with permanent (microchip/brands) and temporary ID (e.g. Livestock markers and tags in the mane). Clear photos of each horse will also be useful. Identification aids return of your horse but you may also need proof of ownership.
  6. Prepare a survival kit to last you and your horses for 96 hrs without power/water or help - have this ready at hand for use on your property and to load onto your float.
  7. Place your email address on the Horse SA email list as this will be used to circulate horse related information.
  8. Check Firebuddies (contact list) and Open Paddocks (Facebook page). These are volunteer services that help you either find horse holding areas in low fire risk areas or offer horse accommodation in a low risk area if your club networks cannot assist. Remember that normal agistment contracts are recommended, even for very short stays.  Post disaster "stays" can last for 6 – 9 months so setting expectations by the land owner is very important.

View a Bushfire Survival Tips for Horse Owners Webinar below.

More information