Vets drowning in deluge of disaster animal care costs

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Among the key recommendations in its recently launched National Election Platform, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is calling on the next federal government to cover the costs of essential veterinary care for wildlife and unowned animals in disaster responses.

The current floods across Queensland and NSW have left large numbers of animals needing veterinary care.

“There are vets right across the flood affected areas of NSW and QLD who are themselves covering the costs of essential veterinary care for animals,” AVA head of Veterinary and Public Affairs Dr Cristy Secombe said.

“This is an all too familiar situation. We saw it with the 2020/21 bushfires, we’ve seen it with floods before, and we’re seeing it again now.

“The community rightly has an expectation that these animals are cared for, and the government has a responsibility to step in with assistance.”

Australian veterinary professionals are not protected from the effects of natural disasters themselves. These are the same vets who are then shouldering the burden of covering the costs of vet care for flood affected animals. 

A survey by the AVA of its QLD and NSW members revealed that over 60 per cent of vet practices affected by the recent floods needed to close, with half that number shut for five days or more. 

Their wellbeing and businesses are already under strain because of the direct impacts upon them. Some vet practices have started local GoFundMe pages so allow them to deliver care to animals in need.

“Vets should not be having to dig so deeply into their own pockets or set up GoFundMe pages to cover these essential animal care costs,” Dr Secombe said.

“There should be a national framework for vets to access government support quickly to provide essential animal care to those in need. In the long term, the drain of high amounts of ‘in kind’ labour is leading to low pay for veterinary professionals and workforce shortages—making it harder for everyone to find a vet.

“Disasters don’t respect state borders. We need a national approach.”

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