I have just finished reading Animals in Emergencies: Learning from the Christchurch earthquakes by Annie Potts and Donelle Gadenne. This was a must-read book for me. Why? I’m in it!
Published in late 2014, this book is largely a compilation of stories about people and animals caught up in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. However, since it is also a text produced by university academics, it aims to serve a purpose as “an introduction to the specialised area of animal welfare management during emergencies.”
I found the first 90% of the book the most enjoyable. Filled with stories of rescue, sheltering and individual owner’s tales of the earthquakes, the book serves to document – largely in the first person – the historical accounts of the days, weeks and months following the quakes. And I like the fact that the book doesn’t just focus on companion animal dogs and cats, but also includes stories about horses, fish, hedgehogs and other species.
But the last 10% of the book is rather disappointing (and it hurts me to have to say this). Since New Zealand is a production-based economy, this book had to focus on the fate of production animals. But this is also where the book loses its tone and momentum. Either the authors asked for interviews with farmers and researchers and were rejected, or they simply didn’t ask – we’ll never know.
Perhaps because of the lack of firsthand accounts, the book becomes too formal in its approach to describing the impact on farm animals and animals used in research. The text uses citations from newspaper articles at this point and becomes ‘preachy’ in terms of animal welfare. As someone with a personal interest in animal welfare management, the issues raised in the book are not new but the distinct ‘lessons learned from Christchurch’ is very much lost on the reader.
I’m pleased this book has been produced and I’m very honored to have my story told although I know that I’m a very small contributor to the overall efforts to assist animals following the quakes.
Animals in Emergencies has been distributed to booksellers worldwide and a paperback version is available on Amazon.com.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand