I have spoken often of what needs to be done for humans both, before, during and after a bushfire, today I am concentrating on the animals.
Animals come in all shapes and sizes so let’s start with the small animals first.
Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Mice, Birds etc – all these animals are caged. Move these cages into the house, into a room that can be closed off and not be entered and exited during the mayhem of actively defending the property. Make sure they have food and water and there is enough space between the cages to prevent fighting.
Cats and Dogs – Get these animals inside, again in a room that is not going to be used during the fires. Make sure you have food and water available for them. If they are going to fight, separate them in different rooms. If you plan on leaving, make sure you have carry cages, leashes available and a grab bag of food etc. Just in case you have to leave.
Sheep – Corral them – in an area that is as bare as possible. Make sure they have access to water – that will continue to flow even after the fire has passed.
Horses – Remove all halters, bridles, rugs, EVERYTHING that is flammable. Anything that is metal will get EXTREMELY HOT. With our horse – we used a stirrup leather, with the excess length cut off – placed a mobile number on it in permanent marker and placed it around her neck, making sure that it was loose enough to allow the buckle to dangle below her neck, but tight enough not to slip over her head. We then put her in the paddock with the dam. DO NOT enclose horses, if something goes wrong – they have no chance of saving themselves. There was nothing else we could do.
Cattle – will stampede – All you can do – is put them in an internal paddock on the property with a water supply that won’t fail and hope they don’t push through an external fence before you can retrieve them.
Once the fire has passed and you find yourself with animals that have been burnt – you need to make fairly quick decisions regarding their welfare.
If an animal is down on the ground – it is a fair assumption there is little that can be done. IF an animal is severely burned – you will need to make a judgment call regarding their welfare. Refer to your local vet (Who will be under stress also)
Native animals are not as silly as they seem sometimes – During the recent fires – kangaroos and wallabies hopped into dams and submerged most of their bodies. Some cows also did the same thing.
There is hope – but you need to ensure their safety during the initial passing of the fire front, remembering that the noise associated with the fire will scare the animals more than the flames. After the passing of the fire watch all animals closely for signs of dehydration and breathing problems, which may not be apparent until several days after the fire.
It is critical that during fire season, you cut fire breaks, make sure that there is as little leaf litter as possible on the ground. That you have thought through all the options and are not left running down the road trying to save animals at the height of the fire. That is a certain death sentence.
Please take care and remember look, listen, prepare and survive.
Take care out there.