Animals helped in fires and natural disasters

Many animals die in natural disasters and fires. Often it would be possible to save many of them if humans chose to. Until recently, nonhuman animals have been disregarded in rescue plans for natural disasters, but this is now starting to change. As concern for animals grows in society, there is more social pressure for them to be cared for in these situations. As a result, there are more and more cases in which animals are saved from natural disasters.


Animals in fires

Fires occur regularly in nature. Many fires are started by human beings either accidentally or deliberately, but not all are started by humans. Fires can start due to lightning, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Of course, how a fire starts is beside the point; if we care about nonhuman animals the key point is that huge numbers of animals suffer and die in fires. It is sometimes possible to help these animals, and it is sometimes already done. Many people think that animals should be helped if they are caught in fires, especially animals living in human homes. See mouth-to-snout-resuscitation, or another firefighter resuscitating a dog for some examples involving dogs; see also a firefighter rescuing a cat.

There have also been cases in which animals have been helped or rescued from fires, or the effects of fire, in the wild. The following are some examples:

Animal rescue: Koalas saved from fire

Millions of animals feared dead in Australia: Cases of animal rescues after massive fires


Animals in floods

As Weather conditions and animals explains, animals are often gravely affected by climatic phenomena. Massive numbers of animals are constantly facing death from exposure, by drowning, or due to starvation or thirst as a consequence of harsh weather conditions. Animals in natural disasters goes into this in detail.

Fortunately, however, there have been many cases in which animals have been saved in such situations. This has happened, for instance, in cases of floods:

A man rescues a porpoise trapped in a rice field following flooding in Japan

Ukrainian guy saves drowning puppy from flood waters

Kangaroo rescued in Australian floods

Stranded Kangaroos are rescued at Lake Burrendong in Australia

Rescuing dogs trapped by floods in Arequipa (Peru)


Animals in other natural disasters

Animals have also been saved from other kinds of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, avalanches, and volcanoes:

Hurricane Sandy animal rescues

The coast guard rescues a dog that survived the tsunami and earthquake in Japan

Lost baby otter rescued from storm

A group of citizens fed more than 1,100 animals during the Chennai floods

Volunteers rescue frozen sea turtles

Unconscious koala saved from bushfire

Koala burn victims given mittens

Denver outfits fire trucks with dog and cat oxygen masks

Man stays in radioactive town to help animals

Further readings

Anderson, A. & Anderson, L. (2006) Rescued: Saving animals from disaster, New World Library: Novato.

Bovenkerk, B.; Stafleu, F.; Tramper, R.; Vorstenbosch, J. & Brom, F. W. A. (2003) “To act or not to act? Sheltering animals from the wild: A pluralistic account of a conflict between animal and environmental ethics”, Ethics, Place and Environment, 6, pp. 13-26.

Chadwin, R. (2017) “Evacuation of pets during disasters: A public health intervention to increase resilience”, American Journal of Public Health, 107, pp. 1413-1417.

Day, A. M. (2017) “Companion animals and natural disasters: A systematic review of literature”, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 24, pp. 81-90.

Faria, C. & Paez, E. (2015) “Animals in need: The problem of wild animal suffering and intervention in nature”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 7-13 [accessed on 6 November 2015].

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (2008) “Preparing your pets for emergencies makes sense. Get ready now”, [accessed on 28 August 2018].

Garde, E.; Pérez, G. E.; Acosta-Jamett, G. & Bronsvoort, B. M. (2013) “Challenges encountered during the veterinary disaster response: An example from Chile”, Animals, 5, pp. 1073-1085 [acessed on 29 September 2019].

Heath, S. E. & Linnabary, R. D. (2014) “Challenges of managing animals in disasters in the U.S.”, Animals, 5, pp. 173-192 [accessed on 29 September 2019].

Hudson, L. C.; Berschneider, H. M.; Ferris, K. K. & Vivrette, S. L. (2001) “Disaster relief management of companion animals affected by the floods of Hurricane Floyd”, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 218, pp. 354-359.

Hunt, M. G.; Bogue, K. & Rohrbaugh, N. (2012) “Pet ownership and evacuation prior to Hurricane Irene”, Animals, 2, pp. 529-539.

Irvine, L. (2006) “Animals in disasters: Issues for animal liberation activism and policy”, Journal of Critical Animal Studies, 4, pp. 2-16.

Kirkwood, J. K.; Sainsbury, A. W. & Bennett, P. M. (1994) “The welfare of free-living wild animals: Methods of assessment”, Animal Welfare, 3, pp. 257-273.

Moore, R. M.; Kaczmarek, R. G. & Davis, Y. M. (1991) “Natural disasters: The role of veterinarian”, Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 6, pp. 265-270.

Nolen, R. S. (2006) “Congress orders disaster planners to account for pets”, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 229, p. 1357.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2006) Frontiers of justice: Disability, nationality, species membership, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Potts, A. & Gadenne, D. (2014) Animals in emergencies: Learning from the Christchurch earthquakes, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Sawyer, J. & Huertas, G. (2018) Animal management and welfare in natural disasters, Christchurch: Canterbury University Press.

Taylor, M.; Lynch, E.; Burns, P. & Eustace, G. (2015) “The preparedness and evacuation behaviour of pet owners in emergencies and natural disasters”, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 30 (2), pp. 18-23.

Thompson, K. R.; Haigh, L. & Smith, B. P. (2018) “Planned and ultimate actions of horse owners facing a bushfire threat: Implications for natural disaster preparedness and survivability”, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 27, pp. 490-498.

White, S. (2012) “Companion animals, natural disasters and the law: An Australian perspective”, Animals, 2, pp. 380-394 [accessed on 3 June 2019].

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