Companion Animals in Natural Disasters: A Scoping Review of Scholarly Sources
During a disaster, people may make evacuation decisions based on their companion animal's welfare, therefore exposing themselves, their companion animals, and emergency responders to increased risk for injury or death. The loss and suffering of companion animals in disasters causes deep distress, diminishing people's capacity to rebuild their lives. This scoping review presents scholarly research studies and reviews relating to people and their companion animals in the context of disasters, with an aim of informing researchers, policymakers, and practitioners and providing direction for future research. Using the Arksey and O'Malley framework, articles in scholarly journals from 2004 to 2014 are discussed. Analysis included 38 articles: 20 research studies, 12 reviews, and 6 editorials. Findings revealed 2 central themes: companion animals as a risk factor to human health and safety and companion animals being "at risk" themselves. An emerging theme was "responsibility": Who is responsible for companion animals in disasters and how? Understanding the implications of human-nonhuman animal relationships for disaster response and having a broader public consensus on what is owed to animals at times of emergency are important to community preparedness and resilience.