A Critical Evaluation of the Companion Animal Disaster Management Framework in New Zealand

  • Stephen Glassey

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the south-eastern United States bringing attention not only to the significant loss of human life, but the plight of hundreds of thousands of animals that were left behind. A key lesson from this disaster was that the needs of pets (companion animals) warranted inclusion into emergency evacuation plans, to reduce the motivation of humans failing to evacuate because they were unable to take their pets. This thesis is the culmination of research into whether those lessons have been effectively implemented and learned, with a special focus on New Zealand emergency management law and public policy. A variety of methods were used, through household surveys, to critically evaluate the companion animal disaster management arrangements in New Zealand: primarily responder interviews, with legal and ethnographic content analysis. Case studies, in particular Hurricane Harvey in Texas (2017), the Edgecumbe flood, New Zealand (2017), and the Nelson fires, New Zealand (2018) provided specific experiences to compare the effectiveness of animal-inclusive disaster arrangements, and to provide an opportunity to identify best practices and recommendations to enhance subsequent responses. Key findings of this thesis include: the New Zealand animal disaster management arrangements remain suboptimal with legal deficiencies requiring attention; there is a lack of integration of technical animal rescue with international disaster rescue arrangements, which may lessen the effectiveness of human and animal rescues; that evacuee behaviour in New Zealand is consistent to that of overseas experiences where guardians of companion animals may place themselves at risk, breaching cordons to rescue their animals left behind following emergency evacuation; and that the lessons identified following animal disaster response are seldom applied and sustained in New Zealand, though this failure to learn is likely to be applicable wider in the emergency management sector and abroad. The thesis acknowledges the author’s contribution to the development of animal disaster management vernacular, including disaster hoarding, disaster rustling, and the delegitimisation of animal rescue. The presented body of works indicate that New Zealand’s companion animal disaster management arrangements require further attention and research. By taking a more animal-inclusive approach to emergency management public policy and law, the safety and wellbeing of both animals and humans is likely to be improved.
Date of Award19 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorCarmen Solana (Supervisor) & Richard Teeuw (Supervisor)

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