Responsibility-sharing for pets in disasters: lessons for One Health promotion arising from disaster management challenges

Publication Name

Health promotion international


During disasters, the behaviour of pet owners and of pets themselves may compromise the ability of emergency responders to perform their duties safely. Furthermore, pet loss can have deleterious effects on personal and community recovery. To explore these issues and their implications for health promotion and disaster management practice, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 27 emergency responders in Australia, where disaster policy embraces shared responsibility yet does not acknowledge pets. We found that responders commit to being responsible for protecting human lives, especially members of their teams. Frontline emergency responders did not regard pets as their responsibility, yet decisions made with tragic consequences for pets exacted an emotional toll. Emergency managers consider community education as a pivotal strategy to support building people's capacity to reduce their own risk in disasters. While important, we question whether this is sufficient given that human life is lived in more-than-human contexts. Reformulating the parameters of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion as 'One Health Promotion' may help to account for the intermeshed lives of people and pets, while acknowledging human priority in public policy and programming. To acknowledge the influence of people's pets in disaster responses and recovery, we recommend five overlapping spheres of action: (i) integrate pets into disaster management practice and policy; (ii) create pet-friendly environments and related policies; (iii) engage community action in disaster management planning; (iv) develop personal skills by engaging owners in capacity building and (v) reorient health and emergency services toward a more-than-human approach.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access







Link to publisher version (DOI)