Fear for animals killed or injured after devastating earthquake in Haiti

A man rides a motorcyle on a flooded street after tropical depression Grace passed through the area, following Saturday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake, in Les Cayes, Haiti,
A man rides a motorcyle on a flooded street, Les Cayes, Haiti, photo: Reuters/Estailove St-Val

Horses, cows, donkeys, cats, dogs, goats, sheep, pigs and chickens could be dead or injured after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Saturday, but helping them is a challenge because of flooding and local gangs controlling access roads.

The quake hit the southern Haitian coastal town of Les Cayes and was followed by a typhoon that flooded streets.

“It really is too early to know the extent of the impact,” Kelly Donithan, director of global animal disaster response at Humane Society International (HSI), told The Animal Reader.

Based on previous disaster experiences in the country after the 2010 earthquake and the 2016 hurricane, Donithan said she expected thousands of animals to be injured, abandoned, lost, starving or sick.

In the past, she said, the HSI saw that in many cases, “these animals were all that people had left of their lives.”

“We are connected with our partners and local veterinarians on the ground who are still trying to assess the impacts, but this is made more challenging because the situation in Les Cayes and surrounding areas is so unstable in terms of lack of security, unsafe roads and local gangs,” Donithan said.

“Haiti is an extremely poor country with complex economic issues which has been impacted multiple times by devastating earthquakes and hurricanes over the years,” Donithan added.

“Each time, these disasters have left the country in desperate need of help to protect public health and safety. Add [to that] the needs of millions of companion, wild and farmed animals … and it’s easy to see how challenging a post-disaster situation can become,” she said.

As well as immediate aid, HSI has been training veterinarians “so that Haiti is better placed to deal with future disasters. But even so, it remains a challenge,” Donithan said.

HSI is currently considering whether to send a team of people into the disaster area or not, and said that much would depend on what kind of support their veterinary partners on the ground requested.

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