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Animal Welfare Groups Partner to Help Animals in Haiti

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 15, 2010 (ENS) – The International Fund for Animal Welfare and the World Society for the Protection of Animals have agreed to head up a coalition of groups to address the needs of the millions of animals in Haiti following the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday.

The largest quake in Haiti in the past 200 years has claimed the lives tens of thousands of people and left the capital, Port-au-Prince in ruins.

Search and rescue teams and relief supplies are pouring into the Caribbean island nation to help people – but the needs of animals have gone unheeded.

Goats roam Port-au-Prince. (Photo courtesy Language Works)

An estimated five million head of livestock, most of which are goats, need care. There is a large stray dog population, a large number of companion animals, and native wildlife – all adversely affected by the earthquake.

No large wild animals or poisonous snakes are native to Haiti, and most of Haiti’s native animals were hunted to extinction long ago.

Only crocodiles and iguana are plentiful. Geese, flamingos, pelicans, wild ducks, egrets, and snipe inhabit the shores while hawks, white owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, pigeons, and doves nest inland.

IFAW and WSPA have formally agreed to lead a coalition of animal-related charities to collaborate on all work in Haiti. They believe that partnering across organizations is the most effective way to address the serious and enormous problems facing animals in Haiti.

“This is a massive challenge and animal nonprofits need to cooperate as much as possible,” said Ian Robinson, IFAW’s Emergency Relief Director.

“We’re already concerned about a possible outbreak of rabies, leptospirosis, or another zoonotic disease. We need to set up vaccination and feeding programs as soon as possible,” Robinson said.

Pigs in Port-au-Prince (Photo courtesy Language Works)

“Finally, we need to get acute, critical care to the animals that need it most,” he said. “There’s a lot to do. More than we can do alone.”

WSPA’s Disaster Liason Officer from Panama Jorge Alcidez Gonzalez is on his way to Haiti with a team of veterinary staffers. The team is carrying veterinary supplies to treat animals that they find, but the main goal in this early stage is to assess the situation and make recommendations on how WSPA should respond.

Currently, a team is staging in the Dominican Republic waiting to get into Haiti to begin work. Animal responders cannot gain clearance until humanitarian efforts are fully underway.

IFAW and WSPA have begun to stock a mobile clinic with vaccines, antibiotics, bandages, food, and other supplies in anticipation of bringing direct aid to animals.

“We’re not certain exactly what we’ll be doing, when we’ll start, or what challenges we’ll face,” said Robinson. “But we know a few things: we’re prepared, we’ve set up a system to work together with other groups, and, given the scale of this disaster, we know we’ll be there a long time.”

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