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January 09, 2012

Helping Animals in Haiti, Two Years after Devastating Earthquake

It has been two years since a massive 7.0 earthquake demolished so much of Haiti, and the impoverished island nation has been struggling to rebuild and to build anew. There is a long way to go by any measure, with over half a million people still living in tent camps and a lingering feeling that the billions of dollars given to human relief could have a greater impact.

Haiti_vets_at_work
Denise Wood
Training veterinarians in Haiti.

When it comes to animals, there’s been a very meaningful impact, thanks to the kindness of our supporters, the strategy behind our response, and the collegiality and generosity of partner organizations like the Christian Veterinary Mission, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Best Friends Animal Society, and the Federation of Francophone Veterinarians for Companion Animals. As a result, we have an ongoing program in Haiti that is making a tangible difference and setting the stage for long-term improvements in animal welfare. Consistent with our initial vision, an all-Haitian team is now running the nation’s first-ever animal welfare center.

These important outcomes flow from the rapid deployment of staff responders from our international arm, Humane Society International, who landed in Haiti soon after the earthquake struck to assist local veterinarians and respond to animal needs. We knew that our commitment would not end with our first deployment, however, and today, we still have staff on the ground there, working to develop animal welfare infrastructure such as veterinary clinics, training initiatives, and street dog welfare programs.

From the first mission, our goal was not just short-term response for animals in need, but to develop and sustain long-term recovery efforts. HSI’s initial emergency response gradually transitioned to long-term community recovery resources and the development of organizational and physical capacity. Among other outcomes, HSI has provided training to Haiti’s 60 government veterinarians; leased a property to provide veterinary care and training; implemented a training program in sterilizing and caring for street dogs; created four staff positions to implement programs; and established a stationary veterinary clinic offering services to the public’s pets and for mobile veterinary care for Haiti’s street animals and working equines.

Going forward, HSI’s five priorities are continuing veterinary training and outreach involving Haitian veterinarians; spay/neuter/vaccination services; equine care workshops and training; establishment of the new Haiti Animal Welfare Center; and the development of a Haitian veterinary team to promote disaster preparedness and awareness. We continue to work with local grassroots organizations and the Haitian government to promote animal welfare and provide expert counsel on animal- and disaster-related issues.

Whether it’s Haiti, the Indian Ocean Rim tsunami of 2004 or last year’s disaster in Japan, we try to leverage our resources to have a lasting impact, and to build the humane infrastructure where little had existed before. And your support is what makes this possible.

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