Animal Welfare and Disasters
- Steve GlasseySteve GlasseyDepartment of Sociology and Criminology, University of Otago
Public policy around animal welfare in disaster management is a new field, both in practice and in research. Early studies in the 1990s paved the way for a wider and more internationally focused approach to the challenge of protecting both people and animals during disasters, with some countries introducing specific legislative instruments to afford animals better protection in such events. Such reforms are largely motivated by the recognition of the bond humans often have with animals, and the likelihood that they will behave in a way that is protective of them, even at the risk of compromising human safety. However, the issues around animal disaster management and the associated policy are complex and are best categorized as a wicked problem.
Production animals are generally highly vulnerable to disaster due to high stock densities and lack of hazard mitigation. However, it is the lack of human–animal bond that leaves these animals largely without disaster-risk-reduction advocacy. In contrast, companion animals that enjoy the paternalistic protection of their guardians benefit from greater rights, and their advocates have a stronger voice to effect change in public policy through democratic processes. This article looks at the historical development of policy and legal reform of animal disaster management in a global context and draws upon numerous studies to provide evidence-based arguments as to why animals matter in disasters and why there are significant public safety and political benefits in protecting them.