Companion animals and disasters: The role of Human Services Organisations


  • John Darroch University of Auckland
  • Carole Adamson University of Auckland



Animals, disasters, social work, human services, social work education


INTRODUCTION: Companion animals have often been treated as an afterthought, or ignored, by those involved in planning for and responding to disasters. This omission in planning for the needs of companion animals has been predicated upon a failure to recognise the emotional bond between many people and their companion animals. This has resulted in significant costs for humans and animals in many disasters. This article serves to raise issues regarding the responsibilities of human service organisations (HSOs) for animal-inclusive disaster risk reduction (DRR).

METHOD: This article develops a conceptual base for the consideration of the inclusion of animals in disaster planning and response within human services organisations. By first establishing the legitimacy of the human–animal bond and the requirement for human services organisations to develop their disaster planning, an exploration of the literature explores the rationale for the inclusion of companion animals within DRR.

FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS: A clearly demonstrated relationship between DRR and the presence of companion animals is evidenced within the literature. Delays in evacuation due to the lack of facilities for companion animals, the loss and grief experienced by those forced to abandon their animals, and the particular vulnerabilities of those living in isolation or in homeless situations attest to the importance of animal-inclusive planning. Those living with animals may be more inclined to commit to DRR if the needs of their animals are included in planning. A mandate for organisational and professional responsibility for the inclusion of companion animals is established.

CONCLUSION: For effective DRR, human services organisations have a professional and ethical imperative to include companion animals in their disaster planning and response.


Author Biographies

John Darroch, University of Auckland

MSW postgraduate student, School of Counselling, Human Rights and Social Work

Carole Adamson, University of Auckland

Senior Lecturer, School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work


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How to Cite

Darroch, J., & Adamson, C. (2016). Companion animals and disasters: The role of Human Services Organisations. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(4), 100–108.



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