American Humane Association is part of the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH), a coalition of professional animal welfare organizations formed to provide emergency response services for animals affected by the tragic earthquake. American Humane Association has provided significant funding to ARCH, which is led by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
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Approximately 20 ARCH team members have been in Haiti conducting assessment and rescue/relief work. As of early February, the coalition had treated more than 1,300 animals, including nearly 400 dogs and cats, with cases ranging from malnutrition, mange, fleas, ticks and worms, to tumor removals, wound sutures and other treatments. In the first stage of response, a top priority also was to visit the tent cities, where thousands of people and animals had been surviving with very few resources. The team has now also gone to more-rural areas and treated hundreds of farm animals, including goats, sheep, pigs and cows. Livestock received anthrax vaccine, all dogs and cats were given rabies vaccines. Animals received primary health care plus de-worming and vitamins. The coalition plans to remain in Haiti for an extended duration and work with the government to ensure that all ARCH funds are used appropriately.
Tracy Reis, American Humane Association’s Animal Emergency Services program manager, had been in Haiti for a week, tending to animals with the ARCH team. On Feb. 3, she completed her assignment there and traveled back to the U.S., heading directly to Marshall County, Miss., where she took part in a puppy mill seizure and the sheltering and transport of 95 rescued dogs. After the last dog was put on a plane bound for the ASPCA in New York and, ultimately, to a new home, Tracy finally returned home herself, for some well-deserved rest.
In the first weeks after our emergency response began, Debrah Schnackenberg, American Humane Association’s vice president of the Animal Protection Division and director of Animal Emergency Services, provided frequent updates on American Humane Association’s and ARCH’s efforts to help animals in Haiti.
An update on Dik the dog from yesterday’s blog: The good news is that the ARCH team and one of our local partner veterinarians made a visit back to Dik’s new home yesterday morning to give him a thorough veterinary exam and treat him. It’s clear that Dik took a battering in the collapse of his home -- he has back injuries, but they don’t appear to be severe. The exam showed how tender and sore he remains now, even weeks later. He received anti-inflammatory medication along with the other medical care the team has been delivering, and the report is that they think Dik will do well from here on out. What good news for a dog that has been through a lot!
Finishing Dik’s exam, the team headed out to revisit several of the tent cities where they had made appointments to meet the locals and provide veterinary care for their animals. In each location, people showed up seeking vaccinations, antibiotics, flea dusts and other medical care for their dogs, cats and assorted livestock. This effort has been so successful that the team on the ground and the new ARCH team members who are rotating in this week will continue this outreach work.
This short message from Tracy in Haiti came in to my email today, and I wanted to share it with all of you:
“We just treated a dog that was displaced [from her owner] by the quake, and another man is caring for her. He told us that when she looked at him, he knew she missed her owners. He [said he] felt bad because she was sad. He was taking good care of her, and what a wonderful heart he has [for her]. Had to swallow really hard when he told us that.”
We know that dogs in Haiti aren’t regarded as pets in quite the same way that most people regard them here in the States. It’s a different culture, and differences are to be expected. But the stories I continue to hear from Tracy and the ARCH team on the ground are of large groups of people showing up day after day, taking the trouble to bring the animals they have with them to receive the veterinary and first-aid care the team is making available to them. There are a lot of people in those tent cities who have lost everything -- but they still have animals with them and they are making efforts to ensure that they receive care. It’s these stories that make my day because it speaks as much about the resilience of the people as it does about their concern for animal care. They are survivors, all of them.
It was an extremely busy weekend for Tracy and the ARCH team on the ground in Port-au-Prince. Friday morning was occupied with a meeting with a top official from the Haitian Ministry of Environment, and then Tracy and staff from IFAW and ASPCA deployed into some of the previously identified “high need” areas of the city. On a daily basis, the team has been assisting about 50 dogs a day, and some smaller numbers of cats and livestock, with antibiotics, vaccinations, flea baths and nutritional supplements. Tracy advised me last night that yesterday they had treated 44 dogs, 13 cats and 7 pigs and did a field suture on a dog that had been injured in a dogfight.
In the past couple of days, the team has been admitted into the tent cities where earthquake refugees are taking shelter until the threat of aftershocks subsides and they can begin the task of rebuilding. Admittance to the tent cities has required special permission, so we were glad we could get this accomplished at last. Yesterday morning was spent in one of the tent cities, where the team also worked on Saturday to continue vaccinating and providing field veterinary care for the animals there. While there, the team watched as the displaced locals scrambled to keep a food truck from leaving their area by climbing on the back of the moving truck. The desperation of the people in these camps is heartbreaking. Nevertheless, they are bringing their animals to the team every day for aid and assistance, and they are appreciative of our efforts.
But amid the sadness of the daily desperation of the people is the hopeful story of a dog named Dik. At the time of the earthquake, Dik was inside a building with a 7-year-old boy. Both were buried under rubble when the building collapsed. Rescuers worked hard to rescue both the boy and the dog. Sadly, the boy did not live. Dik the dog was also pulled free -- alive but injured. The ARCH team came across Dik on Saturday and learned about his story, and they have been working since then to bring a veterinarian to his location, so he can receive a full exam and care for his injuries. They hope to get Dik together with a local veterinarian today.
Finally, a “good news” story to share today. When a small, flea-ridden stray pup was found in a pile of roadside rubble, the team spent some time asking around to find out if he had an owner. Soon they discovered that a family in the nearby village claimed him as their own. The team treated the little guy for a leg injury, gave him a full vaccination and health regimen, and sent him home better off for the encounter. A good-news way to end a weekend’s worth of very hard work!
Tracy Reis, American Humane Association’s Animal Emergency Services program manager, arrived in Santo Domingo late on Wednesday night, where she grabbed a quick two hours of sleep. By 6:29 a.m. on Thursday, she had already boarded a plane to Port-au-Prince with the rest of the ARCH team.
After landing, the team members located their living quarters in the United Nations compound and then headed out in the animal control trucks that our Dominican Republic partner, Sociedad Dominicana para la Prevención de Crueldad a los Animales (SODOPRECA), had brought along to reassess targeted areas of the city and locate animals in need. That was an all-day mission. Locals on the ground explained that what used to take an hour of travel now takes between four to six hours due to the devastation and the large number of people who are still finding refuge during the day in the streets.
Here at American Humane Association headquarters we remain concerned for both the health and future of everyone in Haiti -- people and animals alike. In an email I received from Tracy, she noted:
"We toured most of Port-au-Prince today, including the downtown area. The devastation is really unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. There are large groups of people hanging in the streets and around the rubble that was once their homes. Some have a vacant look of shock on their faces, while others seem to have higher spirits. There are quite a few people selling food and goods along the streets.
We saw many young children laughing and smiling for us as we took photos. Perhaps they were just thankfully unaware of the true tragedy around them. We also had a few adults smile at us. It made me feel better that at least for that brief moment, they could just relax.
So far, this deployment has gone well with no major issues. There are certainly more hoops and red tape to go through versus deploying state-side, but being surrounded by my friends from IFAW and the ASPCA has been great.”
This morning, with plan-in-hand, Tracy and the team headed out to provide antibiotics and field veterinary care to many of the animals they located yesterday. At 5:00 p.m. (Haiti local time) today, Tracy emailed me to let me know that so far they had treated 29 dogs and five cats -- and that the team was still hard at work.
Our meetings with officials from the Haitian government, the U.N. and other international agencies have gone very well, and we’re eager to get moving with the work we have in front of us in Haiti. Most of the members of the ARCH team have returned to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to focus on pulling together the supplies that are going to be needed in Haiti for animal relief. The team will also be working on assessing needs in the areas beyond Port-au-Prince. We have a lot of work ahead of us!
Breaking news of the day: Late last night I received an urgent request from ARCH command staff asking that I send Tracy Reis, our Animal Emergency Services program manager, to Haiti as soon as possible to begin the work of implementing a feeding program for the community dogs and to assist with immediate veterinary aid to animals. That effort will be conducted in cooperation with the Haitian government and, in particular, with the Ministry of Environment.
Tracy is packing for the trip as I write this. Going into Haiti right now requires a responder to be entirely self-contained. She has to carry all of her own food to last for more than a week, a water purification system, personal items, small equipment and other necessary pieces of gear. She’s been getting ready for this for days -- waiting for this call to come. Passport ready? Booster shots? You bet. As you can imagine, it’s an intense effort to get ready to go on an international response on very short notice. She will be on a plane early tomorrow for Santo Domingo, where she’ll meet up with a small team of other senior staff members from our coalition partners. They all expect to be in Port-au-Prince on Thursday morning. They’ll join up with the coalition members already there to begin coordinated operations on the ground. Tracy expects to be in Haiti for about a week, setting up these initial programs and laying the groundwork for the larger and longer-term efforts ahead of us.
I’ll share more with you as soon as I know more. Thank you all for your wonderful help in getting the information out on the ARCH coalition and our important work in Haiti. Please join me in wishing Tracy and the other responders Godspeed and safety in their travels.
It was a busy weekend! The ARCH team arrived in Port-au-Prince on Saturday and spent the day meeting with authorities and local animal welfare agencies. Today, the ARCH team met with Jean Marie Claude Germain, Haiti’s Minister of Environment. The discussion with the minister opened the door for ARCH members to begin focused missions of vaccinating street dogs and assisting with the care of livestock in the earthquake-ravaged regions. ARCH’s first task may be a round-up of street dogs, with the goal of feeding them and vaccinating them against rabies.
But a huge priority for ARCH will be maintaining veterinary care for livestock. Families in Haiti will depend more than ever on their backyard farms for food, milk, sale and survival. The coalition plans to distribute food to farmers to help sustain them until they get back on their feet.
Both of these efforts will help in protecting the lives and reducing the suffering of both the people and the animals of Haiti. In the meantime, the ARCH team members on the ground have begun an assessment of the state of the health, well-being and needs of the animals.
I saw a news article over the weekend where my good friend, Dr. Heather Case of the American Veterinary Medical Association and a member of the ARCH coalition, was quoted: “It’s public health, it’s animal welfare, and it’s what we need to do following a disaster.” Thank you Heather, you couldn’t be more right.
I’m pleased to report that the coalition has now raised about $140,000 in donations to support the animal disaster response in Haiti.
Thank you all for your donations and the amazing and supportive emails, Facebook comments and tweets we’ve been receiving. And please let others know about ARCH and our mission to assist Haiti. We’ll keep you updated as it progresses over the next few days and weeks.
Yesterday I mentioned the great news that the Government of Haiti had made an official request to our ARCH partner, WSPA, for assistance.
This elicited good questions from those of you following the situation closely: How soon will ARCH be going in? What about the people who are still in such deep distress?
These are both important questions for all of us. First, let me address the human need on the ground. It’s clear to anyone following the reports that the crisis of human suffering and need is growing in Haiti. And, as we learned with Hurricane Katrina, animal issues inevitably become human issues -- and the ARCH response to Haiti takes that fully into account. As Gerardo Huertas, Disaster Operations Director for WSPA, noted yesterday, “The Director of Inspection and Vigilance for the Environment, Environmental Department of the Government of Haiti, with whom I have been in touch over the last few days, wrote to me saying:
'After the information exchanges that we have been keeping and given the magnitude of the disaster suffered by Haiti, putting the country under great risk of infecto-contagious diseases spread and possible animal epidemic outbreaks; … both the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Department… have agreed that WSPA aid is very important… (and) suggest that WSPA should organise a trip to Haiti as soon as possible.'"
The aid that Haiti has asked WSPA for is arriving under the umbrella of ARCH, and the members of the coalition take seriously the needs of both the human population and the animal population. Aiding the animals in Haiti will also aid the health and well-being of the people of Haiti. The two are interwoven, as they are in any disaster of this magnitude.
As for the question of how soon ARCH will be going in, members of the ARCH Command Team arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, last night. Tomorrow they will be in Port-au-Prince with the authorities to determine what the priorities should be for ARCH to address in the coming days and weeks to best benefit Haiti in its time of distress.
Let me close with this wonderful note and photo from a photographer on the ground who gifted WSPA and ARCH with a few photos he took in the past few days.
As reported in WSPA’s Animals in Disasters Blog (www.animalsindisasters.typepad.com), this is what the photographer said about this particular image: "While taking pictures of the devastation in Haiti, I saw this group of children -- camped on the pavement with no home to go back to, they represent the harsh reality that Haitians are faced with. But as the dog cheekily forced his way into the frame, the children burst out laughing…and I realized how these simple pleasures are part of their reality too!"
Today I received the great news that our ARCH coalition partners at WSPA have received an official communication from the government of Haiti, requesting that immediate assistance and staff be deployed to help with the emergency relief operation “as soon as possible.”
Gerardo Huertas, the disaster operations director for WSPA, reported:
“Our team of highly trained emergency relief staff have been ready and waiting for just such an opportunity. We have put together the equipment and medicines that we expect will be needed in Haiti and, right this minute, we are preparing to fly in to Santo Domingo today. Once there, we will meet colleagues from the other organizations that are working as part of the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH) and will proceed into Port-au-Prince together, at the earliest possible opportunity.
Since we now have an official request from the Haitians, I am even more confident that the ARCH team will be in Haiti without much further delay. . .”
This is good news for all of us -- and especially for the animals waiting for help! I’ll continue to update you all as our work progresses.
I just got off a call with our ARCH partners, and I'm so glad to report that we had the opportunity to talk to a veterinarian who lives and works in Port-au-Prince. He shared valuable first-hand knowledge of the state of both the people and the animals in Port-au-Prince and in the earthquake-affected areas outside the city.
First I have to note that he and his family have been through a lot in the past week, and their story of courage and help to others in need around them while enduring their own personal challenges is inspiring and amazing -- but that would have to be a subject for an entirely other blog. Let me just say that the good doctor has my deepest respect and admiration for all that he has done and is doing in Haiti right now.
He reported that the walls for the yards around most homes have fallen down and that the dogs that usually come back to their owners' homes at night, after their daytime roaming, are displaced right now -- just as so many of the people are. A rough estimate of the dog population in the Port-au-Prince area alone is about 150,000. And, just like the people, they are going to be needing supplies of water, food and medicine over the coming weeks.
He also confirmed for us that there is a substantial population of livestock in the affected areas around the city as well -- with most of them normally housed in "backyard" farms. While it sounds like the tough little Haitian goats, cattle and equines normally graze for their food and can be expected to continue that behavior for now, other farm animals require appropriate feed. Help with getting feed to them will be a part of the larger goal in supporting their continuing well-being through the uncertain weeks to come.
The ARCH will have coalition personnel in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, Jan. 23, with plans to meet with this veterinarian and his associates. We look forward to working with them to provide the best response and support possible for the animals in the earthquake-affected areas.
The ARCH team members in Central America have been working around the clock to get information, make contacts and continue the planning to get our response efforts into Haiti to deliver aid to the animals in the traumatic post-earthquake situation. It continues to be a great challenge to get information out of -- or aid into -- Port-au-Prince, as communications infrastructure and other facilities are yet to be restored, but great progress has been made in this area.
We are all encouraged by the work of the U.N. and the U.S. military to provide a more secure environment for everyone on the ground, and we look forward to the situation getting better every day, as that will enormously help us with our continuing efforts.
As you can see from watching the news, the situation on the ground is still immensely challenging and continues to be focused on humanitarian support. As the situation improves for people, we know that it will also improve for those of us working to bring rescue and support to the animals. While we are all eager to get to Haiti and begin our work, we also know from experience that stricken communities return to normalcy much quicker, and far more sustainably, if the entire community is considered in the planning and delivery of response -- including its animal population.
I never cease to be amazed at the impact a coalition of dedicated partners can bring to animal disaster response. By pooling funding, expertise, personnel and resources, we can have the best response possible for the animals of Haiti. We sure get more "bang for the buck" for our donors' generous gifts to us. As "animal people," we've come a long way as a response community since Katrina, and this coalition response to Haiti's dire emergency is a clear example of how much more professional and effective we have become. And I am confident it will also show how good planning and partnerships can provide the most animals with the best and fastest care possible.
Progress is being made as more animal disaster response organizations have indicated they will provide funding and resources to ARCH, along with the members already on board: WSPA, IFAW, American Humane Association and the ASPCA.
A “humanitarian corridor” has been opened that is allowing much freer access to badly needed supplies and materials. This corridor will help ARCH move the mobile veterinary unit we’ve purchased and outfitted, as well as the veterinarians who are now on the ground, closer to the area of need.
On another animal note, I’ve been following the heroic efforts of the search and rescue (SAR) dogs in Haiti. (As many of you know, I am a SAR dog handler myself.) These brave dogs and handlers have worked night and day to rescue adults and children trapped in buildings, supermarkets and schools. My heartfelt thanks go out to these incredible dogs and their handlers -- they work tirelessly to save lives. SAR dogs are just incredibly special animals, and they deserve our utmost respect and appreciation for the work they are doing.
We know that there is a lot of livestock in Haiti. And while the population of Port-au-Prince and other cities in Haiti has grown in past years, a large population of livestock and “community dogs” exist in the collapsed areas outside the city and towns. There is no doubt that these animals by now, lacking the usual shelter, food and clean water that they are accustomed to, are beginning to be in need of rescue and help.
Getting good information is still challenging in so many areas -- but we continue to work on getting supplies gathered and shipped and personnel on the ground, and to develop a plan for logistics as soon as possible. Access is nearly impossible at this time, and we are taking it one day at a time, but moving ahead steadily with our response effort.
We continue to monitor the horrific news reports coming out of Haiti, and our hearts go out to the people of Haiti and to the families who have missing and trapped loved ones. All of us here at American Humane Association grieve the terrible loss of life, and we applaud the response workers on the ground who are working around the clock to free the trapped and to care for the injured and homeless.
Our work continues here also. ARCH has raised enough funding to plan for the purchase of a second vehicle that will allow us to broaden our on-the-ground response. I can’t thank those of you enough who have donated to this effort.
More U.S.-based agencies are preparing to join the coalition, and several of our NARSC partners are in that mix. All of them hope to be on board as soon as possible so that we can maximize our efforts.
In the morning, I ensured that our funding to ARCH was transferred by wire. It’s so important to get funding into place, where it can be used as soon as possible for animal relief work, to support the rescue and well-being of the animals that are, and will continue to be, in dire need for weeks or months.
This afternoon, Tracy Reis, program manager for our Red Star Animal Emergency Services, and I were on a conference call with our NARSC and ARCH international partners discussing the current status of animal response in Haiti. As expected, information from sources in Haiti is very scattered and sparse -- it’s an incredibly large disaster and will be lengthy in terms of aid and response. WSPA has a person on the ground in Haiti assisting with search and rescue at the moment, so we expect more information from him soon.
ARCH is working with a local animal welfare organization that will be working on the ground for animal response efforts. This will take time, as the shipping port is in ruins, the airport is seriously damaged and roads are largely impassable.
The coalition’s immediate goal is the purchase and shipment to the island of a mobile vet unit that can be used for animal emergency care supplied by our friends at La Sociedad Dominicana para la Prevención de Crueldad a los Animales (SODOPRECA) with training from the ARCH members. Both livestock and companion animals are a concern for us all, and planning for the initial animal disaster response revolves around their needs.
We’re concerned about how soon we can get animal responders on the ground. With the current state of access, we realize that we are going to have to be patient -- as hard as that is -- because everything is in chaos and, of course, saving human lives is the priority.
We all plan to get on a call together again as soon as possible tomorrow. In the meantime, we are pulling important funding together, and our planning is under way!
Within the first few hours of this morning, less than 24 hours after Haiti experienced the devastating earthquake, we were in contact both with our National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC) partner, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and our international partner organization, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), to offer American Humane Association’s support.
Our international partners let us know they had a disaster liaison headed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, even as we were speaking, with the goal of providing vital on-the-ground information about the needs for animal welfare support. By the afternoon, WSPA and IFAW had provided the framework for a response and an offer to American Humane to join an international coalition to assist the animals that would soon be in dire straits. By this evening, American Humane had become the first U.S.-based animal disaster response organization to commit to the newly formed Animal Rescue Coalition for Haiti (ARCH). We committed thousands of dollars toward the overall relief effort for animals and, if needed, we are ready to follow up our financial aid with “boots on the ground” support from American Humane Association’s Red Star Animal Emergency Services response team.
Animal welfare organizations formed the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH) so that we could work together to bring aid to as many animals, and in as short a time, as possible. At present, ARCH partners include: International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), American Humane Association, Best Friends Animal Society, RSPCA (UK), In Defense of Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Foundation, Antigua & Barbuda Humane Society, ASPCA, United Animal Nations, Kinship Circle, One Voice, Swiss Animal Protection, Palo Alto Humane Society (PAHS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Finnish Federation for Animal Welfare Associations, Animal Medical Care Foundation (AMCF), Petfinder Foundation and Mayhew International.