VANCOUVER -- The BC SPCA says the province's emergency management plans need a critical update after up to a billion animals reportedly died in Australian bushfires.

The animal welfare agency wants British Columbians to sign on to their petition requiring cities, towns, and districts be mandated to have a strategy in place for pets. The province is canvassing ideas from the public until the end of the month.

“I went to university in Sydney for my animal biology degree and I see the animals I saw there and I think that is a nation in absolute crisis," Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA told CTV News.

Moriarty adds that B.C. doesn't require local authorities to include domestic animals in its emergency preparedness planning, response or support services.

According to the SPCA, the lack of legislation can have detrimental effects during an emergency, with animals being lost or owners refusing to evacuate without their pets.

“It can be a challenge getting people to leave their homes and if they are hesitant; minutes matter in these circumstances,” she added.

Owners may even try to return to a dangerous area to try to save their pets. It also poses a safety risk to emergency responders attempting to rescue animals that have been left behind.

“We've had constables go back behind fire lines going into homes to provide temporary food or water which can come with its own tragedy.”

You don’t have to look to Australia to see examples of animals in danger. B.C. has witnessed some disastrous and record-setting flood and wildfire seasons, which forced tens of thousands out of their homes. 

Emergency Management BC said in an email that changes to the legislation are long overdue. In October 2019 it released a discussion paper, and feedback will be collected on it until January 31, 2020. After that, staff will determine if any changes are needed to the discussion paper.

The SPCA said it will share information directly with the government, but has also started an online petition addressed to the public safety minister. 

Those wishing to, can also contact the government directly at

With files from CTV's Bhinder Sajan.