But what about your animals? The World Society for the Protection of Animals has been issuing special advisories to media outlets in Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia as Haiyan approached, urging people to look after the safety of their livestock and pets.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Scott Cantin. the Regional Communications Manager for Disaster Management of the World Society for the Protection of Animals
CANTIN: We started doing public service announcements last year in the Philippines and India and the main reason we decided to do them is we’re not always able to be there, certainly right in the moments when a disaster’s happening. And something that we talked about at the World Society for the Protection of Animals is that response is definitely important, but the work that you do before a disaster and following a disaster often saves as many if not more lives. So what we’re targeting with these public service announcements is pet owners and livestock owners. So there’s slightly different messaging but it’s advice to people who own animals what they can do to lessen the impact or help those animals survive.
HILL: For some people they might look at this and go well look I’m going to look after my family, my spouse, my kids, the heck with my animals, I want to look after my people first. Do you get that reaction sometimes?
CANTIN: Generally no, we definitely don’t see it as a us and them. Of course people’s lives come first and we want to make sure that people are safe. But we also see animals when they’re pets or they’re part of the family, and when it’s livestock they can be part of the family but they’re definitely sources of livelihoods. So what we believe and what we say at World Society for Protection of Animals is when you’re doing a disaster response you have to take into account the needs of the people and the animals. And generally people who own animals, whether it’s their pets or their livestock, they know how important they are to them. So they are quite happy to get the advice and use it and I’ve spoken to people who have survived disasters and their animals haven’t, and I’ve spoken to people who’ve survived disasters and their animals have. And the kind of knock-on effects that a disaster can have when they lose their animals are just economically and psychologically devastating.
HILL: I imagine one of the commonsense things to do before a cyclone like this hits is to let your animals out of their pens, let the chickens out of their hutch, some of them may not survive the storm but some might. But if they’re in a pen or something like that and a storm surge hits and there’s water, they could just drown, no way to get out?
CANTIN: That’s right, we always say the golden rule is if it’s not safe for you it’s not safe for your animal. And an animals that’s freed in some way has a fighting chance. Animals tend to be, depending on the animal, but tend to be strong swimmers, they can run, they can flee. Whereas if they’re tied down or they’re caged as you say they have no chance whatsoever.
HILL: Are chickens strong swimmers?
CANTIN: No and like I say certain animals are stronger swimmers than others. With chickens they have the ability to run. Now when just the other week we had Cyclone Phailin hit India and one of the major impacts that it had on the animals were the smaller animals, like chickens and ducks, which just can’t cope with the high wind events.
HILL: What sort of a reaction are these advisories been getting in the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, which is where the super typhoon’s been hitting in the Pacific?
CANTIN: Well we just started reaching out yesterday. We’ve had a couple of responses back saying thanks, we really appreciate that and we’ll get these out in our stations. It’s just passed through there now and right now we’re focussing on the Philippines, because this storm is intensifying into a super typhoon, so we’re doing a lot of outreach at the moment with both the government and radio stations in the Philippines. But certainly tomorrow and in the coming days I want to go back and say did this work, did people hear it and what sort of effect did it have?
HILL: Because I imagine for a lot of people with pets in particular the welfare of their pets is really important because in a very real sense they are family members?
CANTIN: Completely agree and we’ve seen in disasters like the Japan earthquake and tsunami where when pets weren’t necessarily taken care of the psychological wellbeing of the human survivors took a lot longer to come back to a good place than it would have had versus the people whose animals were accounted for.