Disaster Response in Haiti

January 28, 2010

Updated February 11, 2010

Teams of trained veterinary experts representing Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association have been in Haiti—and were the first animal protection groups to arrive—since January 21 to provide aid to animals affected by the recent earthquake.

The first group of HSI/HSUS/HSVMA field responders, organized by Dr. Eric Davis, consulting veterinarian and founder of HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS), included a French-speaking veterinarian and a paramedic trained in disaster response and animal handling. A second, larger team arrived on January 30 to continue these efforts and a third team has been deployed to arrive in Haiti this weekend.

A country in need

Our teams have provided food for animals living in the streets, cared for animals in the zoos and rural areas outside of the city, and worked to safely reunite pets left behind with their owners.

Dr. Rebecca Berg, a veterinarian and HSVMA member in the first team of responders, reported, "The local people are amazing! In spite of the horror surrounding them, their hospitality goes above and beyond. Some won't accept gifts because we are helping their country."

Although there are a few dozen veterinarians in Haiti, mostly Haitian or Cuban citizens, and perhaps 1000 veterinary technicians, cats and dogs receive very little veterinary care.

Even before the earthquake, many animals in Haiti—including the thousands of stray dogs who roam the street in Port-au-Prince—were struggling to survive and still face the threat of starvation, dehydration and disease.

Although most of the horses and cattle in the area survived the earthquake in pretty good shape, there were concerns about the effect of the disaster on their health, energy, and milk production going forward.

More work ahead

With the dust settling and the people of Haiti begining to rebuild their lives, our second team made plans for ongoing support in Haiti. The third team's arrival will continue these plans, bringing more veterinary supplies, medications, vaccines and food.

Coordinating our efforts with other veterinary and humanitarian groups, we want to help the people of Haiti improve their long-term animal welfare and husbandry practices.

We are focusing on a rural spay/neuter program, addressing equine and farm animal welfare, restoring a rabies vaccination program, and providing veterinary disaster preparedness training.

See all of the work of our veterinary responders and offer your support to the disaster response team for this and other emergency efforts.