Managing Pets During Disasters is a policy report examining the emergency and disaster management (EDM) protocols that guided the the approach to family pets left behind during the mandatory evacuation of the northern city of Fort McMurray, Alberta during the Horse River wildfire in May 2016. Based upon interviews with key stakeholders, the report (1) describes what did and did not work in managing pets during and in the immediate aftermath of the fire and (2) makes recommendations to enhance outcomes during future events. Published in 2018 by Mount Royal University’s Centre for Community Disaster Research, the report is currently featured on the website of the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction.
Findings reveal that although first responders adhered successfully to current best practices of EDM, those best practices rendered companion animals largely invisible. My research also shows that the expertise of local animal welfare organizations, run largely by white women volunteers, in overseeing large scale animal care was misrecognized and devalued by professional first responders who are overwhelmingly white cismen.
The report provides a number of recommendations for municipal and provincial policymakers, first responders, and animal welfare organizations, arguing that continued failure to make family pets a permanent feature of EDM planning and implementation puts pets, civilians, and first responders at risk.