Animals are an important part of our lives and our communities, and we need to consider their health and safety when planning for emergencies. Please share your story and recommendations to help the B.C. government create emergency management regulations that keep us all safer.
B.C.’s emergency management framework
The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness (EMCR) coordinates British Columbia’s response to emergencies and disasters like wildfires, floods, earthquakes, explosions and transmissible diseases.
The recently tabled Bill 31 – 2023, the Emergency and Disaster Management Act, sets out the powers and responsibilities of the provincial government, public sector agencies and local authorities and facilitates agreements and consultation with Indigenous peoples. The proposed legislation is based on international best practices, aligns with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), and will require local governments to include animals in their risk assessments and emergency management plans.
Local authorities, like municipalities, regional districts, the Nisga’a Nation and treaty First Nations, are responsible for preparing and maintaining risk assessments, emergency management plans and business continuity plans for their jurisdictions.
In the event of an emergency, the BC SPCA supports pet guardians and keeps animals safe. We offer information and support for evacuees with pets, temporary emergency pet boarding and community animal care services.
Animals need to be included in emergency management
Including animals in all four phases of emergency management — mitigation, preparation, response and recovery — is critical for protecting animal and human lives and well-being. Excluding them can have serious, and even deadly, consequences for both animals and people, including:
- Loss of animal lives
- Increased likelihood of animal guardians delaying or failing to evacuate
- People entering evacuation zones to rescue animals
- Emergency responders entering hazardous areas to rescue those who have remained
- Mental health impacts for animal guardians and rescuers
Numerous studies have confirmed these consequences. A study conducted after flood evacuations in California found that owning pets was the most significant reason households failed to evacuate and that the risk of not evacuating nearly doubled with every additional animal in the family. After Hurricane Katrina, researchers found that being forced to abandon a pet during an evacuation adds considerably to the acute trauma of the event and increases the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another study found that pet owners had lower PTSD scores after a disaster, suggesting that pets can protect against mental health impacts as people recover and rebuild their lives.
Progress to date
In response to a BC SPCA campaign in 2020 that received support from over 23,000 British Columbians, the newly proposed Bill 31 – 2023, the Emergency and Disaster Management Act, mandates that animals be included in risk assessments, emergency management and evacuation plans. This means that local governments will need to plan to protect the health and safety of:
- Domestic pets
- Law enforcement animals
- Guide and service dogs
- Farmed animals (commercial and non-commercial)
- Animals kept in zoos, sanctuaries, rehabilitation centres or facilities for education or research
- Live animals lawfully possessed under the Wildlife Act
The next step
British Columbians now have the opportunity to provide input as the provincial government develops regulations to implement the proposed Emergency Management and Disaster Act. Regulations that will dictate which costs can be reimbursed after an emergency (currently, any costs other than for commercially farmed animals are excluded from reimbursement), and that could detail how to protect the health, safety and well-being of animals and their guardians before, during and after an emergency.
This is your chance to make sure that emergency management regulations protect animals and their guardians.
Please add your voice to the BC SPCA’s emergency management campaign to show your support for the inclusion of animals, call for collaboration and support for animal welfare organizations, and share your recommendations to help the provincial government improve all four phases of emergency management. We’ll consolidate all your input and send it to the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — together, our voices are louder!
You can learn more about the proposed legislation and regulations by reading the technical paper on B.C.’s Modernized Emergency Management Legislation and the discussion paper on Re-Imagining Financial Assistance After Emergencies.
You can also provide your input directly to government by registering for a virtual workshop, answering questions about post-emergency financial assistance or sending a written submission to modernizeEM@gov.bc.ca.