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No pet or their person left behind : increasing the disaster resilience of vulnerable groups through animal attachment, activities and networks
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Kirrilly ThompsonKirrilly Thompson, Danielle EveryDanielle Every, Sophia RainbirdSophia Rainbird, V Cornell, Bradley SmithBradley Smith, Joshua Trigg
Increased vulnerability to natural disasters has been associated with particular groups in the community. This includes those who are considered de facto vulnerable (children, older people, those with disabilities etc.) and those who own pets (not to mention pets themselves). The potential for reconfiguring pet ownership from a risk factor to a protective factor for natural disaster survival has been recently proposed. But how might this resilience-building proposition apply to vulnerable members of the community who own pets or other animals? This article addresses this important question by synthesizing information about what makes particular groups vulnerable, the challenges to increasing their resilience and how animals figure in their lives. Despite different vulnerabilities, animals were found to be important to the disaster resilience of seven vulnerable groups in Australia. Animal attachment and animal-related activities and networks are identified as underexplored devices for disseminating or ‘piggybacking’ disaster-related information and engaging vulnerable people in resilience building behaviors (in addition to including animals in disaster planning initiatives in general). Animals may provide the kind of innovative approach required to overcome the challenges in accessing and engaging vulnerable groups. As the survival of humans and animals are so often intertwined, the benefits of increasing the resilience of vulnerable communities through animal attachment is twofold: human and animal lives can be saved together.