Animals and Bushfire Planning

Plan ahead

It is important that everyone with animals has at least a basic plan to protect them during a bushfire. You need to do this well before any fire risk, so that everyone in your family knows what to do in an emergency. The plan should include the following:
  • Livestock (including horses and poultry) owners should make sure their properties are registered with DPIPWE via the Property Identification Code Registration and Amendment System - https://pras.biosecurity.tas.gov.au/pras/ui. Knowing what types and approximate numbers of livestock are on your property assists the Department to assess the potential impacts in the event of a bushfire or similar natural disaster.
  • If you have livestock, identify a low risk area that they can be quickly moved to. This area could be an eaten out paddock, irrigated pasture or bare yards with at least a 20 m wide cleared or ploughed perimeter. Ideally, the water supply in the paddock should be a dam or some other source that would not fail in the event of a fire (ie not with plastic pipes and fittings). If yards are to be used they must not have bush or flammable structures alongside. Some livestock would do better in a paddock, others would do better if yarded (see below).
  • Preparation is the key to survival for you and your horses. Tasmanian Trail Riders Inc. has produced a series of Equine Emergency Planning fact sheets for horse-owners which provide excellent information, templates and checklists for being prepared for bushfires or other emergencies. Horse-owners are advised to view or download them below and act on the advice they contain:

  Equine Emergency Planning Fact Sheet 1Planning - The key to survival for you and your horses   (587Kb)

  Equine Emergency Planning Fact Sheet 2Preparation - The key to survival for you and your horses   (297Kb)

  Equine Emergency Planning Fact Sheet 3Checklists   (489Kb)

  Equine Emergency Planning Fact Sheet 5My Equine Emergency Plan and Horses Vital Signs   (397Kb)

  • If you have small animals (dogs, cats, birds, rabbits etc), identify a room within the house where they can be confined so they do not interfere with your efforts in protecting your property or livestock and so they do not run off into greater danger.
  • Ensuring that your animals have identification in case they get lost during the fire emergency.
  • A defendable emergency supply of feed, sufficient to maintain your livestock for up to a week. It is possible that livestock will need to be kept in low risk areas for a few days and, of course, quite possible that the fire would destroy pasture on your property. Consider spreading your risk by having storages off-property if possible.
  • Your plan should include an evacuation option. This means, for your livestock, you should have loading yards that enable a quick loading of animals. It also means that, if you intend to transport the animals yourself, the float or stock crate must be kept serviceable and that you can attach it to your vehicle quickly.
It is essential that any such decision to evacuate your animals is made early, preferably at the first warning of an extreme fire risk. Do not leave that decision until the fire is at hand.

Never deliberately let your livestock on to public roads - they run a very high risk of causing and being injured in traffic accidents.

In the event of a fire emergency

Cattle - Are generally quite good at avoiding fire if they have room to move. In most cases, it is sufficient to move them onto a low risk paddock if threatened by fire.

Sheep - Have a strong flocking instinct that may prevent them moving away from an oncoming fire. Moving them onto a low risk paddock is better than no action at all, but it is far better in most cases to move them into a confined area that is low risk - such as sheep yards surrounded by a bare area. Sheep in full wool manage better than newly shorn sheep.

Goats - Have a strong flocking instinct like sheep but are more agile and thus more likely to escape a fire if they do not succumb to heat stress first. Note that the fleece of angora goats will not be as protective as wool is to a sheep. Moving them onto a low risk paddock or opening internal gates to give them a greater range of access to your property is better than no action at all.

Horses - If you are staying on the property during the fire risk, move your horse into a safe yard area with water or a bare paddock with room to move. Whether you are staying or leaving don't shut the horse in the stable as that will give it no chance of saving itself in the fire. Some horse gear may be flammable and metal gear would get very hot, so such items should be removed from the horse and the yard. A leather halter or collar is best if necessary. Make sure the horse is identified in case it gets loose during the emergency, for instance, a sticker folded in its mane with your name and contact details.

Pigs - Being very susceptible to heat stress pigs will often die from this alone. Enabling pigs to access a wider range of areas on your property may help them to find a refuge. Small pet pigs may be practically transportable but they and their cages need to be identified.

Small animals (cats, dogs) - They will be quite aware of your level of anxiety - they will have their individual responses to this. Therefore, whether you decide to stay or evacuate, it is important that one of your first actions is to restrain and confine small animals, as they may be difficult to find/catch if the situation deteriorates. Also, check your dog's licence tag is still attached to its collar (even better if your dog and cat are microchipped), just in case it gets lost during the fire risk period, and attach its lead.

If you decide to stay, put the pets in a room inside the house so they don't get in the way of your efforts to protect your property or livestock. Don't shut them in a barn, kennel, hutch etc outside as that will leave them with no chance of saving themselves in the fire.

If you decide to evacuate, put your cat in its carry cage early on before it decides to be difficult to catch and ensure your name, address and contact number is on that cage - and the same with other pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs etc. Don't forget to take any medications for your pets with you. There are more tips on managing stress in your pets from RSPCA in this handout

Pet birds - Confined birds do not cope well with fires and will often succumb to heat exhaustion before the fire takes hold of their housing. If you are staying on the property during the fire risk, put a towel or cloth over the cage to minimise the bird's stress. If you decide to leave with the bird, put a tag on the cage with your phone number and address. The cage should be covered to minimise the stress on the bird during transit.

Tethered animals - You should never leave an animal tethered if a fire is approaching, because that would leave it with no chance of surviving.

After the fire

If any livestock have been affected by a fire on your property, there will be some important welfare decisions to be made. Allowing animals to suffer after a fire is not acceptable. You should always seek the advice of DPIPWE or your vet before acting. However, in general terms:

For sheep
  • Sheep that are unconscious, semi-conscious, unable to walk, with extensive burns to the non-wool areas or that show significant breathing difficulties should be destroyed immediately. Sheep that have extensive scorching of the wool without any of these signs should not be destroyed.
  • Sheep with lesser burns to the non-wool areas may survive. They will need a lot of care which, in many cases, will succeed. It is normal for traumatised animals not to want to move, or even eat, for several days. Keep good feed (ie high protein ) and water up to them and keep a close eye for any signs of flystrike on the damaged areas of the skin. The more severely burnt animals may need a long-acting antibiotic, so consult your vet. Any animal that deteriorates rapidly should be destroyed without delay.
  • Sheep that appear undamaged or that have only damage to the wool will need to be watched closely for several days - especially for the onset of breathing difficulties. You should yard the animals after 5 to 7 days and check them closely.
For cattle
  • Cattle that are unconscious, semi-conscious, unable to walk, with extensive burns (ie severe burns to more than 15% of the skin or to the face and eyes) or that show significant breathing difficulties should be destroyed immediately.
  • Cattle with lesser burns may survive. They will need a lot of care which, in many cases, will succeed. It is normal for traumatised animals not to want to move, or even eat, for several days. Keep good feed (ie high protein ) and water up to them. The more severely burnt animals may need a long-acting antibiotic, so consult your vet. Any animal that deteriorates rapidly should be destroyed without delay.
  • Cattle that appear unaffected will need to be watched closely for several days - especially for the onset of breathing difficulties. You should yard them after 5 to 7 days and check them closely.
  • If you have cattle with calves at foot, check the udder and teats for damage. If the cow rejects or is unable to feed the calf, you will need to intervene to save the calf.

For horses
  • Horses that are unconscious, semi-conscious, unable to walk, with extensive burns (ie severe burns to more than 15% of the skin or to the face and eyes) or that show severe breathing difficulties should be destroyed immediately.
  • Horses with lesser burns may survive. They will need a lot of care which, in many cases, will succeed. Horses that have difficulty breathing, higher than normal body temperature, stop eating or have difficulty moving or have burns around the eyes, singeing of the mane and forelock, muzzle burns or soot stained discharge from the nose need urgent veterinary treatment.
  • An immediate threat to livestock left in burnt properties is damage to hooves. Horses left on hot ground can develop heat induced laminitis. The prognosis for horses suffering heat induced laminitis is extremely poor. It is important to get the horse off hot burnt ground as quickly as possible. If your horse displays signs of lameness in the days after a fire consult a veterinarian immediately for advice on treatment.
  • Keep feed and water up to horses. In many cases feeding good quality hay may be sufficient. Horses that have sustained burns may require close monitoring and additional work to get them eating. Pain relief, and ulcer preventative treatment, antibiotic treatment of burns and frequent fresh soft dampened feed may be helpful. The more severely burnt animals will need urgent veterinary attention, so consult your vet straightaway. Any animal that deteriorates rapidly should be destroyed without delay.
  • Horses that appear unaffected will need to be monitored closely for several days - especially for the onset of difficulties moving, eating or breathing. If you decide to yard them, choose an area where the ground is soft and cool. Sand yards can remain very hot for days after a fire has passed.
  • If you have mares with foals at foot, check the udder and teats for damage. If the mare rejects the foal or is unable to feed the foal, you will need to intervene to save the foal.

More detail on these and other species can be found on the following links:

For more information



Back Home