Protecting your pet in an earthquake


Disasters can strike quickly and without warning. Having the right information is key to understanding hazards and managing risks for you and your pets.

The Christchurch Earthquake was deadly for both people and pets. It also struck without warning.

Our free disaster packs provide practical advice to plan for dogs, cats, small animals (rats, mice and guinea pigs), rabbits, fish, birds, horses and Assistance/Guide Dogs, in a disaster.

One of the most devastating types of natural disaster, and one that we are prone to here in New Zealand, is an earthquake. Less than a decade ago, the worst happened in Christchurch; and it could happen again at any time.

The Christchurch Earthquake, February 2011

On February 22, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, killing at least 185 people and caused widespread damage because it was shallow and close to the city centre.

Wellington SPCA Chief Inspector Ritchie Dawson – who has supported World Animal Protection’s Disaster Assessment Response Teams – describes what it was like on the ground in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Ritchie explains how volunteers put their lives on the line to save peoples’ pets and why making a plan now, to protect your pet, is critical to ensure these important members of your family are not left behind or lost forever.

What to do in the event of an earthquake

Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths result from falling debris, flying glass, and collapsing structures such as buildings and bridges. Therefore:

  • If you are inside a building, move no more than a few steps, drop, cover and hold. If you are outside, move no more than a few steps away from buildings, trees, streetlights and powerlines, then drop, cover and hold;
  • After an earthquake keep your animals under your direct control as they can become disorientated. Take measures to protect your animals from hazards and to protect other people from your animals;
  • If your animal comes into contact with liquefaction, it may need to be decontaminated (cleaned) immediately;
  • The behaviour of animals may change dramatically. They may become aggressive or defensive, so be aware of their well-being and protect them, in order to ensure the safety of them and other people.

Making a Disaster Plan for your family pet will stop delays or panicked wrong decisions being made that could end up putting your precious lives (and others) at risk.

With a plan, you will instead be prepared to evacuate fast or stay put with sufficient supplies when a disaster strikes.

Save precious time and precious lives in a disaster. Make a plan today.