Market Overview

IFAW Report Stresses Importance Of Including Animals In Emergency Disaster Response And Proposes Blueprint For Action


WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Because they are so critical to human society economically, psychologically, and culturally, the safety and wellbeing of animals must be a key consideration in disaster response planning at all levels of community and government in the United States. Such is the premise behind a newly released report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) entitled Beyond Rescue: Animals in Disasters.

Evaluating the effects of recent natural disasters on communities and animals, the report proposes a set of guidelines to proactively address a broad range of threats to both domesticated animals and wildlife. From disasters driven by natural events to human error, the number of 'billion dollar' natural disasters has nearly doubled over the past quarter century, with climate change exacerbating the rate and magnitude of such catastrophes. While many natural disasters tragically result in loss of human life, animals, ranging from pets to livestock to service animals and even wildlife, are too often overlooked, made vulnerable by separation, confinement, or an inability to find food and shelter. Though animals share the same burdens from natural disasters as do people, the effect of these emergencies on critical animal populations is often completely overlooked.

IFAW's expertise lies in its Disaster Response and Risk Reduction (DRRR) program, which dispatches responders to areas around the world where animals are in distress. The DRRR team offers a range of emergency support services including animal search and rescue, temporary animal sheltering, aid distribution, as well as undertaking reunification efforts between animals and their owners. The most recent response has been deployment to Butte County, California to assist with the North Complex fires that have ravaged large swaths of the west coast.

According to Shannon Walatjys, IFAW Program Director for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction, "As we prepare for and respond to natural disasters, the safety and wellbeing of animals must be a key consideration. Whether through rehabilitating injured animals, reintroducing wildlife back into its natural environment, or reuniting families with their companion animals, IFAW works to return a sense of normalcy and hope to both human and animal communities that suddenly find themselves in upheaval as a result of a natural disaster."

To ensure animals are properly incorporated into the emergency planning process in the U.S., IFAW recommends the following:

  • Focus on preparedness training with more time and resources allocated towards planning and improving coordination at every level from the community to the federal government. Such an approach reflects the principle of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) strategic plan, 'to build a culture of preparedness';
  • Coordinate ahead of time with IFAW and other disaster response organizations within the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC) network, an umbrella group that helps to coordinate planning and responses among 13 organizations;
  • Ensure that disaster-specific training includes logistics, planning, overhead management, animal care and control, and veterinary care;
  • Introduce and pass laws that specifically address and provide funding for animal evacuation, rescue, and recovery in the cases of emergency response;
  • Minimize disasters before they occur by adopting intelligent building codes and land use practices to create more resilient infrastructure and landscapes; and
  • Establish wildlife corridors as 'escape routes' for animals and wildlife, as evacuation routes exist for human beings in times of crisis.

Additional specific recommendations may be found in the report.

In terms of advice specific to individual pet owners, IFAW recommends:

  • Getting your pet microchipped and registering the information with a national database;
  • Keeping an emergency evacuation kit for your pet that includes medications, vaccination records, food and water, and a pet collar with identification tag;
  • Having access to transport or carriers and kennels on hand; and
  • Contacting your local emergency management agency for information regarding pet-friendly hotels or shelters that allow co-location with animals.

"Disaster management is an ongoing and many-layered exercise," concludes Walatjys.  "Though we cannot fully control outcomes, countless paths exist to making a meaningful difference for both individuals as well as communities in times of immense crisis. It is up to us to have the will to prepare and respond to disasters, and to do it again and again, year after year, one safe family and one safe animal at a time. Resiliency and planning will save lives. We must be ready."

To date, over 275,000 animals have been rescued, treated, transported, or sheltered by IFAW and its local partners since beginning its DRRR work in 2000. Each year, September is designated as National Preparedness Month to promote both family and community disaster planning across the United States.

To view a copy of IFAW's report, Beyond Rescue: Animals in Disasters, please click on the following link.

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:
Rodger Correa at

About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we're up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at


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SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare

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