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Black Saturday

We remember

On 7 February 2009, the Black Saturday bushfires left a path of devastation and destruction across Victoria. 173 people lost their lives and it was estimated that more than one million animals perished. On the sixth anniversary of this tragedy, it is with solemn reflection that the RSPCA pays tribute to those affected by the fires.

The Black Saturday disaster was the largest deployment of RSPCA Victoria’s emergency response services in our history. Our first challenge was to gain access to the affected areas and ensure the welfare of animals was a crucial element of the bushfire response plan. Our team of Inspectors, vets, vet nurses and animal attendants were on the frontline assessing and treating animals, reuniting lost animals with their families, giving advice to the community and supporting other animal welfare groups. Our team of Inspectors visited each property in the affected areas in search of animals that needed help.

Through the tragedy, we were touched by the incredible kindness and generosity of the community in helping us raise over $4 million to provide emergency assistance, care, treatment and a second chance at life to 13,623 animals. Over the following five years, we also processed 1,954 individual grants to bushfire survivors on behalf of their animals. We also processed and distributed more than 30 shipping containers full of donated livestock feed and pet food, shelter, blankets, towels and equipment throughout Victoria.

We launched a community-funded mobile animal care vehicle to provide a valuable resource during emergency situations. Our Mobile Animal Care unit (MAC) has helped us to extend our reach to regional areas by allowing us to provide mobile animal care and welfare services. The vehicle is equipped with a fully operational vet theatre for emergency surgery and treatment, a housing area to safely contain animals, power and running water, and a communication hub to ensure our team can be contacted in remote areas.

Saturday 7 February 2009 is a day we will forever remember. As we reflect on the sixth anniversary of Black Saturday, we invite you to join us to pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives, and recognise the dedicated animal welfare organisations, volunteers and local communities that supported the rescue and rehabilitation of the people and animals affected by the fires.

The RSPCA also pays tribute to those affected by the Black Saturday disaster in a bushfire memorial in the garden at our redeveloped Animal Care Centre at RSPCA Burwood East. The memorial is a special area where we can reflect and remember the people and animals who tragically lost their lives on that fateful day in 2009.

RSPCA's ongoing bushfire assistance stories

Wildhaven has been rescuing and rehabilitating Australian wildlife for over 20 years. The sanctuary housing approximately 500 animals on Black Saturday bore the full brunt of the fires - its buildings and foster animals sadly perishing in the disaster.

The sheer number of wildlife injured during Black Saturday bushfires was overwhelming, and sadly, many wildlife carers and their facilities were also devastated by the raging fires. During the aftermath and until present day, the RSPCA has provided on-going emergency relief to many wildlife carers, including Wildhaven, who have begun rebuilding their sanctuary in 2011 so that they can nurture many more animals back to good health.

Through bushfire grants, the RSPCA was able to provide Wildlife Haven with emergency equipment needed so that its owners, Stella and Allan, could provide treatment and care for injured wildlife. We have also been able to provide assistance with grants that will help them rebuild enclosures to house their patients this year.

Merlot and Cooper, two orphaned Eastern Grey Kangaroos were rescued in the aftermath of the fires by Wildlife Haven. Unfortunately their mothers that had managed to survive the tragedy were hit by cars trying to find new feeding grounds. As you can see, Cooper and Merlot have become inseparable during their recovery and are an inspirational story to come out of the tragedy of Black Saturday. These happy kangaroos continue to live at Wildhaven and will no doubt be overseeing the building works occurring throughout the year.

Rusty came to live at the RSPCA shortly after the Black Saturday bushfires. His owner’s property had burnt to the ground, leaving Rusty and his mates homeless and scared. Due to the immense stress Rusty experienced during the bushfires, as well as the medications and treatment he required, his rehabilitation required the dedication of the RSPCA’s veterinary, clinic, shelter and behavioural training teams to ensure Rusty had the skills to once again face the world. After many months of rehab and TLC at the RSPCA, unfortunately Rusty’s owner was not able to take him back to live with him and had to sadly surrender him to the RSPCA. Rusty had come along way during his long stay at the RSPCA however, and the adoption team quickly found Rusty the perfect new place to put up his paws.

Rusty was still a little wary of the world when he was adopted by his new owner, however has since come out of his shell and in just four short months, has settled in to his new home like he was always part of the family. His owner is thrilled to bits with Rusty and his progress, and the RSPCA couldn’t be happier that after such a long stay at the shelter, he has found his new forever home.

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