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Research into city's quake pets

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 09:28 14/11/2013
Annie Potts
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QUAKE ANIMALS: UC Associate Professor Annie Potts says companion animals are a significant part of society and warrant more research.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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How animals and their owners coped with the Canterbury earthquakes is being researched.

New Zealand has the highest level of pet ownership per capita in the western world and many animals were affected by the earthquakes.

This summer, a University of Canterbury (UC) scholarship student will research how animals and shelters coped with the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

UC Associate Professor Annie Potts, who is co-director of the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies, said companion animals were a significant part of society and warranted more research.

Masters student and former vet nurse Donalle Gadenne will be investigating how Cantabrians dealt with the safety and well-being of their pets through the quakes.

"We know that home owners who lived with companion animals in the CBD red zone were willing to break through the cordons to retrieve their pets,'' Gadenne said.

"Many people went into the residential red zone houses afterwards to feed and rescue abandoned and lost animals."

She said pet owners were helped by local animal shelters and veterinary clinics after the earthquakes, both with practical help and emotional and social support.

"One woman said her local vet clinic was where 'we shared happy and sad stories and memories of our animals'."

The project would look at the post-earthquake experiences of veterinary and animal shelter staff and volunteers, with the aim of providing a better picture of human-animal relationships following the disaster. 

Potts hopes the research will help facilitate improved management of companion animals and those animals in industries that are confined and unable to escape during emergencies.

"The SPCA, SAFE, Dogwatch, Cats' Protection League and other cat rescue organisations did everything they could under the circumstances. They are the unsung heroes of the quakes. So are the city's veterinary clinics."

Canterbury University Press will be publishing a book next year written by Potts and Gadenne on how animals coped in the quakes.

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