News from the CRC


NSWSES large animal rescue training at Agnes Banks. Photo by Penny Burns
NSWSES large animal rescue training at Agnes Banks. Photo by Penny Burns

Managing Animals in Disasters - newsletter

The Managing Animals in Disasters project has been active throughout 2015 and 2016. Read all about the latest information in the second newsletter from the project - MAiD Aware.

Now that we have passed the half-way point we would like to report on our progress and our intentions for the remainder of the project. This newsletter provides a summary of our activities with links to our project outputs. 

A quick recap

The aim of this project is to identify best practice approaches to the management of animals in disasters that result in improved outcomes for public safety, longer term mental and physical health of emergency services responders, those with animal-related businesses, community members and their communities. Work commenced in January 2014 and will conclude in June 2017.

In this project we have been deliberately inclusive, so that ‘animals’ can include pets, large animals, commercial animals, agricultural livestock, and wildlife. Similarly, responders include emergency services, Local Government, RSPCA officers, Parks and Wildlife rangers, NGOs, general practitioners, veterinarians, and volunteer organisations.

Find out more about the MAiD project and download reports at the project website. 

Project review

Scoping survey of the experiences of emergency services personnel in supporting animals and their owners in disasters

This study assessed emergency services personnel’s attitudes towards operational responsibility for animals and scoped the range and extent of the challenges faced by emergency services personnel in their interactions with animals and their owners.

A national survey of Australian response organisations and stakeholders on the challenges of managing animals and their owners

A comprehensive national survey of Australian Response Organisations and other relevant stakeholders involved in the management of animals and their owners in emergencies and disasters was undertaken. Top level findings were challenges with logistics of animal management (personnel and equipment), physical management and rescue of animals, interactions with owners during disaster response, and post-disaster impacts in the management of animals and their owners (distress, emotional issues).

Knowledge Exchange Workshop

A Knowledge Exchange Workshop attracted stakeholder organisations from around Australia, discussing the challenges and their needs in managing animals and their owners in disasters. Participants represented diverse organisations within the police and emergency services, primary industries, local government, and animal advocacy and welfare organisations.

Animal Emergency Management in Australia - Audit Report

Findings from the activities outlined above, in addition to further internet and document searches, were used to prepare an audit report on the current legislation, plans, policies, community engagement resources, initiatives, needs, and research dissemination in animal emergency management in Australia.

Field studies

A number of research studies are currently in progress;

  • Collaboration, communication, and integration in animal emergency management
  • Planning for animals: a multi-stakeholder study of peri-urban animal owners
  • Experiences of South Australian horse owners in the Sampson Flat bushfire
  • Building an ARC: establishing a community-led Animal Ready Community (ARC)
  • PhD research: Investigating the application of Protection Motivation Theory to animal owners and emergency responders in a bushfire natural hazard

Animal Emergency Management in Australia - An audit of current legislation, plans, policy, community engagement resources, initiatives, needs, and research dissemination

Main findings

  • A systems approach to emergency management is essential – integration of animal emergency management is required.
  • There are clouded collaborations, misunderstandings of responsibilities and issues around interagency coordination.
  • Lack of status of animal emergency management impedes progress and results in organisational fragility in this ‘non-core’ business.
  • There is a lack of consistency in public communication– multiple messages from multiple stakeholders.

End-user statement - Andrew Stark, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, CFS

"Emergency responders across Australia are very aware of interactions between members of the community and animals during emergencies. Many responders have personal stories of when the decisions made by people about animals in disasters have led to poor outcomes for both animals and people.

"This report identifies that there has been a range of activities undertaken by agencies and jurisdictions at all levels in the community, but it requires a systematic approach to integrate and improve collaboration to enable responsibilities to be met.

"In achieving this collaboration, it identifies a need for developing common information resources that are based on the available research that can be used to support both consistent messaging and underpin engagement strategies in all jurisdictions.

"Importantly, this report confirms that the critical element in Managing Animals in Disasters, is not the animals but the people. Emergency management agencies increasing the priority of managing animals in disasters - from pets through to livestock, and both native and captive animals - will lead to higher levels of engagement with the community and an overall increase in resilience to disasters.

"This research provides the resources to underpin future activities in Managing Animals in Disasters from training responders, developing communication strategies and ensuring that data from future activities supports ongoing research into Managing Animals (and People) in Disasters."

Current field studies

The MAiD project is progressing through a set of four independent field studies and PhD research. Each field study is focussing on a different aspect of animal emergency management and will produce different outputs to support those areas.

Collaboration, communication, and integration in animal emergency management

Focus: Response, co-ordination, communication

Aim: To investigate the integration of formal and informal organisations/groups in animal emergency management.

Overview: Initially, this study began as an interview-based study of a broad range of formal response agencies, extending organisations, and informal emergent volunteer groups who were involved in the animal emergency management response to the Sampson Flat bushfire in January 2015. 

The study has primarily been looking at the roles of, communication with, and integration of informal groups and the benefits and challenges encountered. Subsequent recent bushfire events in SA (Pinery), VIC (Wye River), and WA (Waroona) have led to a proposal to extend data gathering, through a survey, to a broader set of groups to assess whether the Sampson Flat findings generalise to other events.

Expected output/s: Advice and guidance to support better integration of emerging groups and extending organisations in animal emergency management.

Planning for animals: a multi-stakeholder study of peri-urban animal owners

Focus: Planning, logistics, community preparedness

Aim: To map peri-urban animal populations in a bushfire prone area with an overlay of owner evacuation intentions.

Overview: Successful animal emergency management requires community engagement and the integration of multiple stakeholders. This study involves collaboration between MAiD, Tasmania Fire Service (TFS), Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), local councils, and peri-urban animal owners.

We are teaming up with TFS in their next round of Bushfire Ready Neighbourhoods to select areas within one or two LGAs with high peri-urban animal ownership. We will be surveying animal ownership along with preparedness and evacuation planning intentions (and other data) to map and anticipate demand for animal evacuation capacity, potential road/traffic issues, and ‘hot spots’ that may require greater assistance or coordination in a bushfire response. The focus is on, but not limited to, larger animals, such as horses, alpacas, and ‘pet’ livestock. Once this proof of concept field study has been undertaken we plan to take it to another hazard setting. 

Expected output/s: a methodology for planning – anticipating demand and capacity for animals in evacuations suitable for all hazards.

Building an ARC - Establishing a community-led Animal Ready Community (ARC)

Focus: Awareness, preparedness, planning and recovery

Aim: To assist with, and document, the setting-up of an Animal Ready Community.

Overview: This study is embedded within a community-setting in the Blue Mountains. We are working with the Blue ARC community group, Springwood Neighbourhood Centre, the Mountains Community Resilience Network and the City of Blue Mountains Council. In this study we are working to support and document the setting-up of a community-led group that is looking to progress animal emergency management in the mountains. Activities include identifying community needs – through their experiences of the 2013 bushfires. Identifying and liaising with official emergency management stakeholders and identifying key community contacts. Supporting the development of approved resources for local animal owners, and providing information and support for those who lost animals in the 2013 bushfires.

Expected output/s: A ‘how to’ guide for communities to assist them in setting-up an ARC, with survey tools, checklists, information sources, hints and tips.

Experiences of South Australian horse owners in the Sampson Flat bushfire

Focus: preparedness and response

Aim: To assess thepreparedness and actions of horse owners impacted by the January 2015 Sampson Flat bushfire.

Overview: This study was undertaken with support from Horse SA and built on data collected in post bushfire research conducted with the SA Country Fire Service in 2014.

The study involved an online survey of horse owners affected by the Sampson Flat bushfire and was used to assess ownership and property characteristics, owners’ levels of preparedness, and the actions taken during the bushfire.  An infographic with summary findings is available at

Expected output/s: Guidance and advice for horse owners, presentations to emergency service organisations and other stakeholders.

Investigating the application of Protection Motivation Theory to animal owners and emergency responders in a bushfire natural hazard (PhD research)

Focus: Response and Engagement

Aim: To investigate the behaviour of animal owners, and the interactions between animal owners and emergency responders, in the context of bushfires threats.

Overview: This study is being conducted by CRC PhD student Rachel Westcott. Rachel is investigating the interactions and challenges facing animal owners and emergency responders in bushfires, to determine if new or enhanced mitigation measures can be integrated into arrangements to promote human safety and support community well-being. The field work for this study is focussed in the Port Lincoln area in SA – an area that has experienced a number of serious bushfires in In phase one of her research Rachel has been conducting a series of interviews and focus groups with a range of animal owners and emergency responders to explore their bushfire experiences, issues around preparedness and their interactions with each other. The owner groups have included farmers, commercial animal-related business owners, horse owners and pet owners. The emergency responder groups have included those in emergency services, primary industries, environmental departments, and vets. Analysis of this qualitative data is currently underway and will lead to a focused survey in phase two. 

Expected output/s: Publications, recommendations for animal emergency management, community seminar/workshop.

2016 and beyond!

As the collection of field study data concludes later in the year, we will enter the final phase of the project. Activities will involve finalising the analysis of the field work and interacting with end-users to develop outputs that are acceptable to emergency services and regarded as fit-for-purpose by end-users and the research team.

The project will seek to produce a balance of outputs for different audiences – as noted in the field studies section above, but will ultimately be directed by the project end-users. Evaluation and assessment of the main project outputs will be conducted with end-users to ensure that final deliverables are optimised for use. 

Research utilisation

The team has actively pursued involvement from end-users since the project’s inception using a wide variety of communication methods to attract and retain interest from agencies, professional associations, clubs, researchers and community organisations in Australia.

At this stage in the project we have mostly produced publications, reports and presentations – linked to our scoping research. We have also contributed to discussions on animal emergency management issues in a range of media, including radio, television, podcasts, and social media.


Individual members of the MAiD team were recognised for their contributions as academics and practitioners during the year. These achievements are broader than their specific contributions to the CRC MAiD project, although their recognised expertise and profiles serve to enhance our team’s national standing.

Rachel Westcott  - MAiD PhD student Rachel Westcott was nominated for a Pride of Australia award, for her work after South Australia’s Sampson Flat bushfire. Rachel finished third in the Environmental Category of the South Australian awards, which are run by News Corp. Along with her team from South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM), Rachel, who is a veterinarian, helped save - and sadly, euthanase - hundreds of suffering and burnt animals, including western grey kangaroos, koalas, possums, livestock and domestic pets after the bushfire in January 2015. Rachel started SAVEM, a not-for-profit organisation, after Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, to help animals after natural disasters. 

Kirrilly ThompsonDr Kirrilly Thompson has been recognised by CQUni for her outstanding research efforts and commitment. She was among several CQUni staff acknowledged as part of the Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Outstanding Researchers which recognises those who have made a significant contribution to enhancing and supporting activities at CQUni. Kirrilly received the Mid-Career Research Award. Kirrilly was also a winner of the 2015 University of New South Wales and ABC Radio National’s “Top 5 under 40”. This national competition is aimed at discovering Australia’s next generation of science communicators. 

Farewell and welcome

We farewell Dr Brad Smith from the team, having made a major contribution to the MAiD project through field studies, conference presentations, and a number of publications. Congratulations on your promotion and good luck in CQUniveristy Rockhampton!

We welcome Dr Lisel O'Dwyer to the team from CQUniversity. Lisel has been passionate about all animals since childhood but is also concerned with social justice and human wellbeing. She has a PhD in human geography and has worked in a range of social science fields over the last 20 years including housing, ageing, public health and social policy.   

Further infomation

If you would like more information about the project please email project leader Dr Mel Taylor at

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