ANIMAL WELFARE: Shuron Billman with her two dogs Inu and Georgie. Shuron is conducting research on the effect of the floods on pets. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
ANIMAL WELFARE: Shuron Billman with her two dogs Inu and Georgie. Shuron is conducting research on the effect of the floods on pets. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

Study looks at impact of losing animals in disasters

RESEARCHER and psychologist Shuron Billman is undertaking research through Charles Sturt University into the psychological impact caused by pet and livestock loss following the 2013 Wide Bay and Burnett floods.

Ms Billman said very little attention has been given to the troubles that some people go through as a result of pet loss or death, including farmers.

"Traditionally, farmers have been viewed as having a 'business-like' relationship with their animals due to their procurement and mass," Ms Billman said.

"However, such emotional ambivalence is at odds with farming legacy, espousing high-level pastoral care which is central to farmer's identity and culture".

According to Ms Billman, the psychological effects of animal loss incurred by farmers may be substantial as they face ongoing weather challenges from drought to deluge extremes, along with resource shortages on many different levels.

It's been nearly two years since the January 2013 floods and many farmers haven't recovered.

"Some have been forced to foreclose their properties, euthanise their animals, and sadly, there has been an increase in the number of suicides in the rural farming population," Ms Billman said.

Her world-first study attempts to address this investigative shortfall by sampling from urban and rural farming populations and investigating whether any differences between the cohorts exist.

The researcher is currently recruiting Wide Bay and Burnett residents to complete the online study survey.

"It is hoped that community participation will contribute towards an improved understanding of the psychological impact of the January 2013 floods, and the relationships people had with their pet and/or livestock during and after natural disasters " she said .

"If you are not a pet or livestock owner, you can still participate. The only eligibility criteria is that you experienced the floods".



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