Animals in Disasters

DRM in Hitrino BG 2016

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

Once disaster strikes, things need to happen fast: direct animal rescue, the provision of public health services and the protection of livelihoods with animals. Natural and man-made disasters often demonstrate the important role that animals play in the community. Companion animals play an important role in helping their owners cope during a disaster, and recover once they are able to return home.

In terms of disasters, preparedness is key. It helps mitigating the impact of potential events. Setting up plans and legislations is therefore at the basis of a Community prepared the face disasters. In reality, and with very few exceptions, animals are barely never parts of disaster preparedness plans or relating legislations.

CAROcat is therefore advocating for changing this status quo and integrating animals in disaster related legislations at EU, UN and other international institution’s levels. According to the “One Welfare” and “One Health” approaches, humans, animals and their environment should be taken into consideration altogether.

You may consult the FOUR PAWS’ Brochures here to prepare yourself and your animals for disasters:

Disaster relief / Natural disasters

2015: Floods in Chennai (India). After heavy rainfall in India in the middle of November, the metropolis of Chennai was flooded for days. Over 300 people drowned and thousands lost their homes. Many animals are also affected, which is why FOUR PAWS decided to travel to India to support our partner organization Blue Cross of India.

A VIER PFOTEN disaster relief team arrived early December 2015 and is already in action. 

Update, 2015/14/12: 600 animals provided with feed: The situation in India is still terrible … The masses of dirty water are unimaginable! We cannot rule out the possible danger of an epidemic. This makes it even more important to medically treat and vaccinate the animals as rapidly as possible. Our disaster relief team is still in action all day long and has provided feed for over 600 animals, including 350 cows yesterday alone.

Update, 2015/16/12: More than 1,200 animals has been provided with food: Our team is working tirelessly and has so far managed to provide food for more than 1,200 animals. They are working in different areas of Chennai: looking after cats in Blue Cross of India’s animal shelter, distributing fodder for cows and treating injured strays. They also managed to re-visit some of the cows which they had been to feed a few days ago and discovered that the animals are doing much better, having gained enough strength to stand up again.

Update, 2015/12/17 – In the ER : Since our arrival in Chennai, India, which has recently been affected by severe floods, we’ve provided almost 1,300 animals with food and fresh water. Today we concentrated ourselves on surgeries, as there were some dogs that were in urgent need of medical attention. Thanks to our partner NGO “Blue Cross of India” we were able to treat the five patients – all dogs – in a modern veterinary clinic. All five are doing well and we are positive that they will recover soon.

To see more pictures of the mission, please visit the Facebook page.

2014Flooding in Eastern Europe (Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Bulgaria). The catastrophic floods have destroyed nearly everything in the Balkans. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes and many farms have been destroyed completely. However, innumerable animals have also lost their lives in the disaster or were left to their own devices due to the evacuation of their owners. The priority is therefore first care for injured and abandoned farm animals. Dr Amir Khalil, Lead Disaster Relief at FOUR PAWS, coordinates the 15-person mission team in the Balkans: “Our first priority is first care for farm animals. Many people have lost their homes and farms, some were completely destroyed. In such a situation people don’t have any resources to support their animals. Our relief mission has a dual purpose as we are helping animals and humans at the same time.”

·         Serbia: FOUR PAWS has concentrated on the two destroyed cities of Obrenovac, Bravec and Zvecka. The 20,000 inhabitants of the city of Obrenovac were affected severely, as 80% of the city was flooded. Whole flocks of sheep were carried away by the floods and many other animals were stuck in the mud and would not have managed to escape without human help. To support the two disaster relief teams at their operating places optimally, FOUR PAWS has set up an operation centre in Belgrade to organise food and medical supplies. The veterinarians on site will treat injured farm animals medically, distribute food and also bring smaller companion animals, such as dogs or strays, to emergency facilities. For this purpose, FOUR PAWS has organised boats to be able to provide fast and efficient help for regions still flooded.

·         Bosnia: Bosnia has also been severely hit by the devastating floods. However, the situation on site is too dangerous for the disaster relief teams as the floods loosened land mines and increased the danger of explosions. With immediate effect, the FOUR PAWS disaster relief team is distributing food transports to Bosnia. In the area of Bijeljina, 70 percent of almost 50,000 hectares of agricultural fields have been flooded and more than 205,000 tons of food for farm animals have been destroyed. The people and farmers affected by the floods are in urgent need of 50 tons of food each day. The FOUR PAWS disaster relief team is starting with the distribution of food immediately to provide the daily amounts needed there.​

·         Bulgaria: A FOUR PAWS team went to the town of Mizia which had been severely hit by devastating flooding. The VIER PFOTEN team remained on site for one week to rescue animals and provide them with urgently needed food and medicines. Altogether, the VIER PFOTEN team distributed nine tons of food to farmers and other people who had farm and companion animals affected by the flooding, thus feeding more than 4,000 animals for 10 to 14 days.

A team also went into the town of Debelets (province of Veliko Tarnovo), which has been severely hit by the floods.

2013: Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines: After the disaster relief mission, in total the VIER PFOTEN team were able to provide medical treatment for 615 animals and vaccinate 130, with more vaccinations following soon; the necessary vaccine has already been organised.

2012: Tohoku disaster (Japan): The Humane Society International (HSI) has provided aid for animals affected by the Tohoku disaster in Japan.

2009: Earthquake in l'Aquila (Italy). The aftermath of the earthquake that hit L’Aquila (Italy) in 2009 is a good example of how coordination among public entities and NGOs can improve the response to catastrophes, by implementing a rescue plan that involves both humans and all animals in the affected areas.

Rapid response / Rescue of animals following political crisis

2013: Ukrainian crisis. VIER PFOTEN has rescued the five bears that the former Ukrainian dictator Viktor Janukowitsch was keeping in his private zoo.

2011: Rescue of the animals of the Tripoli Zoo (Libya): Following the war in Libya, the wild animals stayed for weeks without food and care. A VIER PFOTEN team went there to take care of them.

Disaster Management literature

arrow grey Human and pet-related risk factors for household evacuation failure during a natural disaster (Sebastian E. Heath, Philip H. Kass, Alan M. Beck and Larry T. Glickman)

arrow grey  Risk factors for pet evacuation failure after a slow-onset disaster (Sebastian E. Heath, Philip H. Kass, Alan M. Beck and Larry T. Glickman)

arrow grey MDPI Special Issue "Animal Management Following Natural Disasters" (Guest Editor Prof. Dr. Leslie Irvine
University of Colorado)

Helpful Links

arrow grey Blog of World Animal Protection on disaster management

arrow grey IFAW communicates on the deployment of emergency response teams  during disasters:

arrow grey HSI, Advice to the public in case of disasters (under the rubric ‘disaster planning for pets, horses and livestock’):

arrow grey Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre, Advices to pet owners on how to prepare for a disaster:

arrow grey Website of the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA): (website available in 12 languages). 

•    Helping pets (;

•    Caring for animals (;