Soon after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, two international animal welfare groups joined forces to aid the estimated 5 million displaced animals in the country. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) created a new agency called ARCH – Animal Relief Coalition to bring relief.
Since that time, other well-known groups have joined the effort to save animals. These include Best Friends Animal Society, the ASPCA, Humane Society International, American Humane Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
All of the groups are now assembled in neighboring Dominican Republic and are ready to move into Haiti on Friday, January 22nd. They will bring with them a mobile veterinary clinic loaned by the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society.
It may appear that it has taken these groups a long time to spring into action, but it was important for them to gather together, assess the situation and create a concrete plan. All of the organizations plan on keeping their teams in Haiti for a long time.
Dick Green of IFAW told USA Today that one of the delays was due to “lack of security” in the country and “an understanding that humans needed help before anything else.”
Today, the government of Haiti gave their official approval for the highly trained animal rescue workers to be deployed into the country.
The overall goal of the mission according ARCH is, “…to make sure emergency aid reaches as many animals in as short a time, as possible.”
Although there are sad reports of a multitude of stray dogs roaming Port-au-Prince looking for food; helping them will not be the first problem the group tackles.
Dick Green said, “Priority No. 1 is livestock.” In Haiti this typically refers to goats and the plan is to take delivery trucks into communities with food and vaccinations for them.
Preservation of livestock is seen as the key to getting Haiti back on its feet. “Goats are great producers of milk. We need to get the milk to the families. Poultry provides eggs. We need to get the hens laying eggs again. Then that helps address human needs. Feed the goat and the humans gain,” said Green.
When this goal is complete, ARCH will begin helping homeless dogs and other companion animals. Unfortunately dogs are not viewed as pets in Haiti. Most live outdoors and adults teach their children not to touch them. Many people see them as a menace because they attack pigs.
Hopefully, some of these prejudices will change once Haitians see how animal rescue workers interact with animals and after they witness the miraculous efforts of the many search and reach canine teams in their country.
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