RSPCA NSW Bushfire Relief FAQs

We are truly saddened by the catastrophic bushfires that continue to rage across Australia.

The unwavering commitment of NSW Rural Fire Service and the many other organisations helping on the frontline is nothing short of heroic. 

The loss of animal lives to these fires is particularly close to our hearts and is truly heartbreaking. We are so grateful to those of you who have been reaching out to us, asking how you can help support our inspectors on the ground in affected areas. We have seen passionate and deeply caring community members going above and beyond to provide aid, shelter and assistance to animals in need.

RSPCA NSW is doing all we can to protect the animals in threatened or affected areas. 

With conditions constantly changing, we are sharing the following information in an effort to keep you updated on current action being taken, as well as to provide advice in seeking support and offering care to animals affected by the bushfires.

If you have been affected by the bushfires in NSW over the past six months and are interested in assistance from RSPCA NSW, please fill out this form here: https://www.rspcansw.org.au/bushfire-assistance-request/

Image: fire devastated land on the South Coast.

What action is RSPCA NSW taking to help animals in the current bushfires?

After spending time in affected zones and talking to people in these areas, we wanted to let you know how we plan to make an impact in the coming days, weeks and months.

So far you have helped us:
• Distribute over 4 tonnes of animal food to affected zones to help feed countless hungry, displaced animals.

• Launch an Emergency Pet Assistance initiative which will be helping affected animal owners access essential financial support for vet care, food and supplies.

• Deploy teams to evacuation centres in Bega, Cooma, Nowra, Kiama, Goulburn, Moruya and Berry.

• Conduct countless welfare assessments on animals. Sadly, a lot of these assessments have involved humanely euthanising critically injured animals, many of them livestock, that were unable to escape the catastrophic conditions. This is horrible work for our inspectors but they are glad that have relieved the immense suffering of these animals.

• Evacuate people, pets, livestock and as many animals that we could reach.

• Activate RSPCA NSW vets and vet nurses to the worst affected areas, ready to support local vets. Our teams have been working closely with WIRES to provide veterinary care for injured native wildlife.

Our RSPCA NSW Community Outreach teams are on the road providing animal care services to affected areas across the state during this ongoing crisis. These mobile teams will assist communities in providing animals with health checks and offering much needed animal supplies. Many people were able to evacuate with their pets but were forced to leave without taking much at all.

We are helping wherever we can, but the most challenging work for us comes after the active fire zones have been cleared, when recovery begins. The RSPCA NSW Inspectorate, working alongside Local Land Services (LLS), Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and district veterinarians, will begin the difficult job of entering affected areas and assessing any injured animals. This includes the rescue and treatment of affected native wildlife and livestock. In conjunction with RFS and DPI, we are also making assessments of domestic animals left behind by people evacuating fire-affected areas.

We are preparing our shelters located in at-risk areas for evacuation, should conditions change. Each of our shelters has a detailed evacuation plan and all animals will be transferred to other locations or placed in staff and volunteer homes or foster care.

We are on standby to support any further evacuations and have delivered pet supplies to bushfire emergency relief centres. In the coming days we will be working to deliver more supplies to those affected. To stay up-to-date on where you can access these supplies, keep an eye on our Facebook page.

A lot of our team are in areas heavily affected by communication outages, but we will share updates as they become available.

Image: inspectors assisting at the Cooma evacuation centre.

How can I get help from RSPCA NSW if I’ve been affected by the fires?

We are trying to help you and every person affected by the fires in any way we can. If you have been affected by the fires and need help from RSPCA NSW please let us know here. Alternatively you can call us on 1300 278 3589 so we can provide advice or assistance.

Image: providing feed to livestock affected by bushfires. 

In what areas is RSPCA NSW providing assistance?

Currently we have staff and volunteers stationed across the state assisting in any way they can. Our staff have been helping at Nowra, Kiama, Cooma, Bega, Goulburn, Moruya and Berry. 

In NSW, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is the primary agency for animal welfare during any emergency, however they often delegate responsibilities to our inspectors who have specialised skills and training in this area.  

What is the process for rescuing animals from fires? Do you or another emergency agency attend and how do you work together? 

We are helping wherever we can. Legally, most volunteer organisations, civilians and other non-emergency personnel are not able to enter active fire zones. RSPCA NSW has strong working relationships with emergency services and can sometimes access these areas to help any affected animals as they have the necessary equipment and training. This is at the discretion of the emergency services team on site.

In NSW, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is the primary agency for animal welfare during any emergency, however they often delegate responsibilities to our inspectors who have specialised skills and training in this area. We also work closely with local councils, Local Land Services (LLS) and other charities to help coordinate recovery efforts.

We also work closely with a number of specialised wildlife groups to assist where we can and provide support to these organisations in a number of ways.

Why isn’t RSPCA helping rescue animals from active fires?

Legally, most volunteer organisations, civilians and other non-emergency personnel are not able to enter active fire zones. RSPCA NSW has strong working relationships with emergency services and can sometimes access these areas to help any affected animals as they have the necessary equipment and training.

We are helping wherever we can, but the most challenging work for us comes after the active fire zones have been cleared, when recovery begins.

Are you working alongside other organisations?

In NSW, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is the primary agency for animal welfare during any emergency and they often delegate responsibilities to our inspectors who have specialised skills and training in this area. We also work closely with local councils, Local Land Services (LLS) and other charities to help coordinate recovery efforts.

We are in contact with a number of small and large wildlife organisations who are also assisting with relief efforts and offering our support in any way we can.

I need to evacuate but I have animals, where can I go?

If you have been instructed by authorities to evacuate, if it is safe to do so, we recommend taking your animals with you. 

You can find a list of animal safe places in affected zones here.

Image: puppies rescued from a fire affected property.

I need to evacuate, what should I bring for my pets?

When evacuating with your pets , try to take as many of the following pet items as you can before you leave your property: 

  • Registration certificates 
  • Vaccination certificates 
  • Transportation equipment (cages/carriers/crates/horse floats etc.) 
  • Cat litter and tray for cats 
  • Poo bags for dogs 
  • ID tags (including pet’s name and your mobile phone number), collars, leads, harnesses, saddles etc. 
  • Food and water bowls, and at least one week’s supply of non-refrigerated food
  • Medications and clear instructions for treatment of any medical conditions 
  • Blankets/bedding/nesting material 
  • Toys/enrichment devices 
  • Photograph of your pets (including names) in sealed plastic bags 
  • Contact details for your veterinarian, local animal shelter, local council and alternative animal accommodation facility. 

For assistance animals, you should also include: 

  • Evidence that your animal is appropriately trained to access public areas. 
  • Instructions on how the animal is to be treated by others assisting after an emergency, if there are specific requirements they may need to be aware of. 

What preparations should I make for my pets in case of an emergency?

Just as we need to prepare our family and property for emergencies and natural disasters, we also need to prepare our animals. After human safety, the welfare of your animals should be your most important consideration in the event of a natural disaster. It is up to you to plan ahead and be prepared before an emergency happens to ensure the safety of yourself and your pets. 

Prepare a pet emergency kit. It will ensure that you have everything you need in order to activate your plan quickly and effectively. Items to include in your kit include:  

  • Registration certificates 
  • Vaccination certificates 
  • Transportation equipment (cages/carriers/crates/horse floats etc.) 
  • Cat litter and tray for cats 
  • Poo bags for dogs 
  • ID tags (including pet’s name and your mobile phone number), collars, leads, harnesses, saddles etc. 
  • Food and water bowls, and at least one week’s supply of non-refrigerated food
  • Medications and clear instructions for treatment of any medical conditions 
  • Blankets/bedding/nesting material 
  • Toys/enrichment devices 
  • Photograph of your pets (including names) in sealed plastic bags 
  • Contact details for your veterinarian, local animal shelter, local council and alternative animal accommodation facility. 

For assistance animals, you should also include: 

  • Evidence that your animal is appropriately trained to access public areas. 
  • Instructions on how the animal is to be treated by others assisting after an emergency, if there are specific requirements they may need to be aware of. 

You  need to decide what events or conditions will trigger you to activate your plan and whether this involves relocating your pets.

To avoid unnecessary risks to you and your pets, move them to a safe place when emergency conditions are forecast (for example, if a serious fire risk is declared for the next day or if a flood watch warning is issued).  

Image: red skies in regional NSW.

What should I do if I must leave my pets behind?

Pets should not be abandoned unless it is impossible to safely evacuate them. To avoid this situation, consider evacuating your pets before the danger arises. If you are forced to leave your pets behind, our advice is as follows:

  1. Do not tether them as they will be unable to flee if danger is imminent.
  2. Provide food and water for at least one week and provide multiple sources of water.
  3. Ensure pets are properly identified (e.g. a collar with an ID tag and microchip).
  4. Leave a note on the front door or on your mailbox stating your mobile phone number, how many pets are located on the premises, their species, names and photos.
  5. Birds will require food dispensers that regulate the amount of food provided at any one time. Provide these dispensers for all pets if possible.
  6. If you can, bring your pets inside. Leave them in a safe, secure room. Ideally this room would have no windows and must have adequate air (like a big bathroom). 
  7. If you must leave your pets outside, ensure there is plenty of water available from multiple sources that do not rely on power or above-ground pipes. 
  8. Move livestock to a closely grazed or ploughed open paddock with drinking water and preferably shade. Do not place synthetic blankets on your horses, as these may melt in extreme heat. Provide a minimum of five days’ food/hay or ensure access to pasture. 

If you need further assistance, please contact NSW Emergency Services and they can assist you further and take the appropriate action to keep you and your pets safe. 

What preparations can I make if I have livestock?

Just as we need to prepare our family and property in times of emergencies and natural disasters, we also need to prepare our animals. After human safety, the welfare of your animals should be your most important consideration. It is up to you to plan ahead and be prepared before an emergency happens to ensure the safety of yourself and your livestock. 

If it is your decision to relocate your animals, this must be done long before the emergency is in your area. Your options will depend on the size of your property, the number of stock you have and where your animals are normally kept. You should identify the ‘safest’ paddock on your property or neighbouring property. This paddock should have a water supply, clear access, be well grazed (avoiding adding fuel to fires) and have secure fencing. You will also need to make sure your animals are clearly identifiable with your contact details on all labels and tags.

We suggest working with your neighbours to develop a plan for all your livestock and working together to execute this plan when an emergency arises.

Image: horses in fire smoke.

I’m worried about leaving my livestock, can you come and get them?

If large livestock animals are to be moved, this should be done before an evacuation has begun. If you are currently being evacuated and have not already moved your livestock, your options to keep them safe will depend on the size of your property, the number of stock you have and where your animals are normally kept. 

Firstly, identify the ‘safest’ paddock on your property or neighbouring property. This paddock should have a water supply, clear access, be well grazed (avoiding adding fuel to fires) and have secure fencing. You should then move your livestock to this paddock as soon as possible. Do not shut animals into a stable or small yard. Animals will suffer minimal burns if given the maximum space and can cope well on their own if they can move into the open. 

Remember to remove all coverings from stock e.g. rugs and veils, as these can burn animals if they come into contact with embers. 

For more information, you can contact us on 1300 278 3589.


Image: inspector assessing livestock.

What can we do to help livestock that has been burnt?

Despite the best plans and preparation, sometimes horses, livestock and other animals are caught up in bushfires. Animals that have been burnt should be immediately assessed as to the extent of the burns and then, depending on the injuries, either treated or euthanised. Euthanasia means humanely ending the life of an animal when it is in the interest of the animal’s welfare and using a technique that avoids further pain, suffering or distress. RSPCA NSW advocates that farm animals which have to be euthanised due to serious injury should be humanely and competently euthanised on site without delay.

Animal owners do not need to wait for RSPCA NSW or DPI staff to visit to euthanise impacted livestock if they are confident they can do so humanely and safely. 

Image: injured livestock have been found with burns across the state.

I need fodder for my animals, can you help?

If you are in need of fodder immediately, please contact the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on 1800 814 647 for emergency fodder assistance.

Who can I report stray/injured livestock to?

If you find any injured or stray livestock in fire-affected areas please contact us on 1300 278 3589 so we can assist.

What animals is RSPCA NSW helping?

RSPCA NSW helps all animals in need. During this bushfire crisis our efforts have been focused around providing urgent veterinary care, help and rescuing livestock, wildlife and companion animals.

How is RSPCA NSW using the money donated to bushfire relief?

The community response to our recent work in the field has been overwhelming. Our entire organisation is blown away by the incredible support both in Australia and overseas, whether that be through hands-on help in local communities or through generous monetary financial donations from around the world.

As we continue our direct work in the field, alongside other aid and wildlife organisations, we are committed to to ensuring the money raised for RSPCA NSW has the most meaningful impact possible for all creatures great and small.

As part of our ongoing plan to address this crisis and the ongoing recovery, we will be distributing allocating funds donated to our bushfire appeal according to a four-point plan.

1. Immediate response in communities: $1.3 million 

  • Assisting at evacuation centres by providing RSPCA veterinary care to animals, supporting local veterinarians and veterinary nurses, providing supplies we have specifically sourced such as food, medication and bedding.
  • Working with wildlife rehabilitation groups such as WIRES and other local organisations to increase the amount of wildlife that is reached.
  • Accepting and rehabilitating surrendered animals from affected areas.
  • Dispatching inspectors and veterinarians to remote regions to assist with welfare checks on vulnerable animals and wildlife.

2. Emergency assistance fund: $1 million

  • Helping impacted owners and their animals rebuild their lives by offering financial assistance and goods.
  • Support includes, but is not limited to, veterinary care, emergency boarding and supplies.

3. Mobile emergency response unit and infrastructure: $1.2 million

  • Increasing our emergency infrastructure so we can respond more rapidly and effectively in disasters.
  • Investing in a mobile emergency response unit to be used as a central assistance and relief point for communities in crisis.
  • Equipping our teams on the ground with satellite phones, breathing apparatuses, specialised vehicles and other equipment to ensure their safety and improved communication abilities.

4. Wildlife welfare program: $500,000

  •  Investing in long-term critical care and rehabilitation for our state’s wildlife.
  • Looking to partner with local wildlife groups to help in their efforts to rebuild.
  • Researching methods of re-establishing colonies.

The estimated billion animals who have perished as a result of these recent fires is a tragedy. As the following months and years of recovery and rebuilding begin, RSPCA NSW will use this plan as a guide to continue offering assistance to the people and animals who need our help the most.

Helping animals great and small is the foundation on which our organisation has been built and when tragedies such as these strike, we want to keep our promise to be an effective form of relief and comfort to these vulnerable lives.

Finally, thank you to our supporters and donors for their wonderful help. Your selfless determination has made it possible for us to continue our work now and into the future. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Is RSPCA NSW helping farmers affected by these fires?

Absolutely. RSPCA NSW will be helping any animal owners affected by these fires who need our help, including farmers. 

Image: RSPCA NSW inspector Nat feeding horses.

Who should I speak to about post-bushfire care for animals?

Your veterinarian should be your first port of call. However, if you are caring for an animal affected by the fires, you can contact us on 1300 278 3589 so we can assist. 

What is RSPCA NSW doing to help wildlife?

RSPCA NSW staff on the ground in affected areas are assisting wherever needed. This includes helping people care for domestic animals, livestock and wildlife. Our teams have been working closely with WIRES to provide veterinary care for injured native wildlife.

Whilst the majority of our work in these fires relates to pet and livestock owners, we will always assist any animal in need that we come across.  

We are in contact with a number of small and large wildlife organisations who are also assisting with relief efforts and offering our support in any way we can.

Image: a poor wallaby found in the fire ravaged landscape.

Who can I report stray/injured wildlife?

If you have come across any injured wildlife and you are not in a position to safely help them please call RSPCA NSW on 1300 278 3589 so we can assist.

Alternatively, you can also contact WIRES on 1300 094 737.

What should I do if I find wildlife in need of help?

If you have found a wildlife animal in need of help, please take them to the nearest veterinarian. Most veterinarians will treat wildlife free of charge. It is critical that animals are assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible to increase their chances of recovery and survival.

If you are unable to access a veterinarian due to road closures or fires, please follow the below advice from WIRES.

The majority of rescues reported relate to birds, possums, lizards, turtles, small mammals and orphaned joeys found during pouch checks of macropods and wombats, for these animals:

  1. If you have found a sick, injured or orphaned animal, remove any threat to the animal. This includes keeping people and pets away from the animal to minimise stress.
  2. Where it is safe to do so, please contain the animal in a dark, quiet place for transport to the vet e.g. gently wrap the animal in a 100% cotton pillowcase or similar and place it in a ventilated box with a lid. When taking a wild animal to a vet please also make sure the vet is told the EXACT location where the animal was found as that information is critical to successful releases post recovery.
  3. You can offer the animal a small amount of water in a shallow container and allow it to self-access but do NOT give the animal any food or attempt any other treatment, unless instructed to by a vet or experienced wildlife carer.

DO NOT approach snakes, monitor lizards (goannas), bats (flying-foxes or microbats), adult macropods (e.g. kangaroos or wallabies) or raptors (e.g. eagles, falcons or hawks). These animals require specialist handling and MUST be rescued by trained wildlife rescuers.

Our teams have been working closely with WIRES to provide veterinary care for injured native wildlife across southern NSW.

I have wildlife training, how can I help?

Thank you for this generous offer. We have received so many offers from volunteers across the country and even from the other side of the world!

We are currently developing an appropriate volunteer strategy to address the many challenges and community needs during this time. At this time, we are unable to send new volunteers directly into evacuation centres and zones.

However, we are looking for volunteers to assist with the below roles. If you are interested in one of these roles, please express your interest by filling out the relevant form. Please note that at this stage, we are not be able to guarantee a volunteer position due to the high volume of applications we are expecting.

With the increased support at our locations, we will be able to send out more of our trained professionals to assist in the evacuation centres and zones. 

How can I get in touch with RSPCA to get support for my animals?

If you have been affected by the fires and need help from RSPCA NSW you can request assistance here and tell us exactly what you need. 

How can I help support your work?

Thank you for helping us support animals in NSW and all your generous offers, we are amazed by how the whole community has come together to help those in need.

So many organisations have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of those donating goods to fire affected regions. At this stage, there is very limited access to these regions, especially on a large scale which would be required to deliver these goods. The best way to help at this time is by making a donation.

Once the immediate danger has passed, we will be organising animal care packages and donation drives where those affected can pick up pet essentials needed to care for their pets. If we need any volunteers to assist with this work, we will let you know via our social media pages. Stay tuned to our social media pages for more information about locations and dates for these drives.

If you have been affected by the fires and need help from RSPCA NSW you can request assistance here and tell us exactly what you need. 

We can only be there in emergency situations, like the bushfires and other similar crises, because of the support from our like-minded community. That’s why we have our bushfire appeal to ensure we can continue keeping our promise to the animals. 

Donate today here.

I want to donate goods, what goods are needed and where can I take them?

So many organisations have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of those donating goods to fire affected regions. At this stage, there is very limited access to these regions, especially on a large scale which would be required to deliver these goods. The best way to help at this time is by making a donation.

If anything changes, we will let you know of any goods drives via our social media channels.

I want to donate but the website is not letting me, how else can I donate?

Our website accepts local, interstate and international donations. You can donate via credit card or PayPal. To directly support our bushfire appeal, click here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation via phone on 1300 777 221.

If you would prefer, you can make a direct deposit into our bank account using the details below. If you do this, please be sure to email us at donations@rspcansw.org.au with your name, donation amount and contact details so we can issue you an end of month donation receipt for tax purposes. 

Image: RSPCA NSW inspectors and Animal Ambulances en route to Bega.

I am interested in volunteering, how can I do this?

We have received so many offers from volunteers across the country and even from the other side of the world! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

We are currently developing an appropriate volunteer strategy to address the many challenges the community needs during this time. At this time, we are unable to send new volunteers directly into evacuation centres and zones.

However, we are looking for volunteers to assist with the below roles. If you are interested in one of these roles, please express your interest by filling out the relevant form. Please note that at this stage, we are not be able to guarantee a volunteer position due to the high volume of applications we are expecting.

With the increased support at our locations, we will be able to send out more of our trained professionals to assist in the evacuation centres and zones. 

 How can I donate if I’m overseas?

Our website accepts local, interstate and international donations. You can donate via credit card or PayPal. To directly support our bushfire appeal, click here.

Alternatively, you can make a donation via phone on 1300 777 221.

If you would prefer, you can make a direct deposit into our bank account using the details below. If you do this, please be sure to email us at donations@rspcansw.org.au with your name, donation amount and contact details so we can issue you an end of month donation receipt for tax purposes.

Bank details:

Account Name is RSPCA NSW Fundraising Account
Account number: 403557
BSB: 032-070
Swift Code: WPACAU2S

If possible, please include “Bushfire Appeal RSPCA NSW” as the reference.

If you have any questions that have not been answered or need further assistance, please contact us on 1300 278 3589.