Disaster strategy fails to deliver for animals

The National Disaster Resilience Strategy is out for public consultation, and it fails to commit to reforming our inadequate animal disaster laws and system. Have your say so it can be changed, if you want to help save animals in future disasters. It costs you nothing apart from a few minutes of your time.

Act now! You only have until the 28th of February 2019 to make your submission.

Skip to the bottom of this page if you are in a hurry. 

In 2010, a report was published that highlighted the deficiencies in our civil defence emergency management system in regards to protecting animals. The message was clear. Failing to protect animals would not only compromise animal welfare, but also human safety too. The response at that time by government was no changes were needed.

Since we have had the Christchurch quakes, Kaikoura quake, Edgecumbe flood, Port Hills fire and just recently the Nelson fire. They all showed significant gaps in animal welfare emergency management, and in deed humans in every event put themselves at risk to save their animals – exactly what the 2010 report said would happen.

Only last month, we presented to Parliament with the support of Gareth Hughes MP, the most comprehensive report on animal disaster management law reform in New Zealand history. It highlighted why the US introduced the Pet Emergency & Transportation Act 2006, just a year after Hurricane Katrina because evacuation failure was attributed to arrangements not allowing people to evacuate with their animals. New Zealand has opted not to learn from this disaster or the recent ones with a new National Disaster Resilience Strategy going out for public consultation last week. We invited the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, no one came.

In the Ministerial Inquiry into Civil Defence in 2017, 10% of the submission content related to concerns around animal welfare emergency management. The inquiry report relegated animal welfare to an annex, and suggested it could be looked at a later time. Well, when will this time be? We have been waiting since 2010 and every event shows massive gaps that need addressing.

Our report last month highlights a huge array of issues that have not been resolved and need to be. When you have world leading experts championing for animals to be better protected, how can we not act. How can we not listen to the citizens who for the majority own and cherish their animals – and will put their lives at risk to protect them. That is of course if you don’t really want citizens to be part of democratic processes. We have a strategy set by officials, not community driven – was the community of Edgecumbe asked what the vision for civil defence emergency management should be after their experiences with it? I doubt it. Would you create a strategy for a company, that is just set by the board with no employee engagement? No. Ironic the strategy calls for community engagement, accountability and transparency.

Just two days after the strategy was put out for public consultation, the Ministry published their electronic newsletter – which did not even mention there was only six days left for the public to comment, but a quiet post on the website is made. The process does not appear to strive for deliberative democracy, that is actively wanting engagement feedback.

Apparently there was public consultation in October last year (we never got told about it, did you?) – however their newsletter (e-bulletin) at this time makes no mention of it being out for public consultation. Is there a theme here?

The December edition does say after the fact they had completed public consultation.

We only found out about the current round of consultation because the select committee ran its own independent process, and we subscribe to Parliamentary alerts – thank goodness they have done this, as otherwise we would have lost the window to shape strategy for another 10 years! So at least Parliament have an open and accountable process to encourage citizen engagement.

The National Disaster Resilience Strategy mentions animals just eight times in tokenistic way (often in brackets, you know its a priority when its put in brackets). There is an opportunity for New Zealand to be leaders in animal welfare emergency management, but we are choosing not to. Where is the bold leadership to say “we will commit to improving our laws, plans and capabilities to protect animals”? (except for Gareth Hughes who is the only one we can see pushing for any change).

We have tried patiently being good quiet citizens for over 10 years asking nicely for change. That doesn’t work.

We are the voice of animals affected by disaster and we call on the government to do the right thing, be bold and make themselves accountable to deliver tangible improvements in our animal disaster management arrangements.

After all, the draft strategy calls for:

  • Enhancing the ability of the public to engage in policy, planning, and practice is key
  • Holding ourselves to account is paramount

For every day we fail to learn the lesson to mainstream animal welfare into emergency management laws and plans, we will put the safety of both humans and animals at risk.

Make your submission now

We recommend you to have your say by going to Parliament website by 28th February 2019.

Many of our supporters have asked for what we suggest to submit. What you submit needs to be your thoughts, but for those who are short on time and want to make it clear that this strategy fails animals in disaster, the following can be used (and edited): Copy and paste as you wish. 

Under I/we would like to make the following comments:

I/we do not support the current National Disaster Management Strategy unless specific animal disaster management goals are included.

The US Senate passed specific federal law to protect companion animals in 2006 (PETS Act) because of the lessons from Hurricane Katrina. 44% of those who chose to stay behind during the mandatory evacuation of Hurricane Katrina, did so in part, because they were not allowed to take their animals.

I/we believe that specific, measurable and accountable objectives to better protect animals in future emergencies will save human life, as well as that of improving animal welfare in such events.

Under I/we would like to make the following recommendations:

Specific goals should include implementation of the recommendations made by Animal Evac NZ’s report on animal disaster management presented at Parliament in January 2019.

An additional section under 4.4 Resilience and people disproportionately affected by disaster; namely

4.4.5 Animals and Community

People often have strong bonds with their animals which can influence their behaviour in emergencies. Research and experience show that if animals are not protected during emergencies that owners will often place themselves at risk to do so. Production animals are a key element of our economy and losses of such animals has economic and trading reputation impacts. This strategy commits to enhancing laws and arrangements to better protect animals from disaster, and by doing so protect human life and contribute to great levels of resilience.

Add Strategy Objective 19:

Implement world leading animal disaster management reform to better protect companion and production animals in particular, including improvements to laws, funding, plans and capabilities.

Want to see what Craig Fugate, former FEMA Administrator says about why the US introduced specific law to protect animals in disaster? click on the YouTube below.