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February 17, 2010

Helping Haiti

Post-earthquake updates from HSI's disaster response team


On January 12, 2010, a calamitous magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, with its epicenter not far from the densely populated capital of Port-au-Prince.

HSI’s disaster response team was on the ground within days of the disaster. Our initial assessment then informed our longer-term plans to improve the overall situation for animals there.




Watch our latest video above, then view our slideshows:

Slideshow 1

Slideshow 2

More videos:

HSUS, HSI Helping Haiti's Animals

"Survivor" Dogs Home from Haiti

Two Lucky Dogs Out of Haiti


  • Heavily loaded down. © HSI

  • Vet tech Chris Broughton-Bossong with some of the orphans. © HSI

  • Scrounging for food. © Kathy Milani/HSI

  • We will try to help Haiti's horses. © Kathy Milani/HSI

  • Treating a dog. © Kathy Milani/HSI

  • We helped make more space for this spider monkey. © Kathy Milani/HSI

  • HSI continues to respond to animal and human needs in Haiti. © HSI

  • Lloyd calms Hai-chien. © HSI

February 17, 2010; 9:00 p.m. EST


Today, the team left Port-au-Prince and headed southeast to assess the situation for working equines in the villages. The horses and donkeys they encountered were in reasonable condition, though many had been left standing still saddled and without water. Our vets, greeted with appreciation by the animals’ owners, offered bales of hay and administered de-worming medication. Poor nutrition, pollution and lack of infrastructure seem to be the greatest challenges to improving the situation for working equines in Haiti, but there is no doubt that these animals are vital to the livelihoods of many local people. Read a dispatch about village visits.

In the evening, our group once again visited a local orphanage to offer help obtaining food and water, then met with a colleague from Christian Veterinary Mission to discuss long-term needs, plans, and opportunities to cooperate, particularly with regard to disaster training and rabies prevention.

Tomorrow, our third team of Haiti disaster responders will depart for the Dominican Republic and then home.


February 16, 2010; 7:00 p.m. EST

Today, the members of Team 3 visited an orphanage to evaluate some goats and sheep. They examined each animal, checking gum color and weight, vaccinating and de-worming them. They brought food and did their best to ensure water would be consistently available. They taught the children how to keep the animals healthy and happy. Read a dispatch from the field about the visit by Dr. Jay Merriam. 

Then, our group and a representative from Christian Veterinary Mission met with the head veterinarian of Haiti's Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry and CVM have taken some impressive steps in addressing public health and zoonotic disease concerns through vaccination clinics, but have had some difficulty in obtaining vaccinations that are not on the verge of expiration.

There is concern for animals in Haiti; a lack of resources is the greatest obstacle to improving conditions for them.

February 10, 2010; 11:30 a.m. EST

Our third disaster response team has deployed to Haiti. We will post more news once the group arrives.


February 4, 2010; 10:00 a.m. EST

This morning, our second team prepared to return to Santo Domingo. Nine people and four dogs will make the trip with two trucks and trailer.

Before departing, they met again with representatives of Christian Veterinary Mission to transfer supplies and confer regarding urgent and ongoing needs.

Our responders will debrief on the long ride home. Their appraisal of animal welfare concerns will shape our broader organizational response in the days and weeks to come.

Veterinary Care and Human Service of the Dominican Republic, and Christian Veterinary Mission, will continue to provide immediate care and assistance in Haiti, while HSI/HSUS/HSVMA organizes the next phase of our response to the animal welfare challenges of the earthquake's aftermath.


February 2, 2010; 9:30 p.m. EST

Our team has now spent a substantial amount of time at the epicenter of earthquake damage and observed all species trying to survive. Today we treated a few privately owned animals and discovered some neighborhoods with animals obviously receiving community feeding.

The team returned to Merger village to assess the needs of other local villages, since outlying areas were still getting insufficient overall relief. Dr. Megan Hlusko was presented with two treatment challenges at this visit: one a very sick dog, and the second a young woman who had a foot wound incurred on January 12. Dr. Hlusko treated the infection of the wound but concluded the foot was fractured and urged the village’s pastor to take her for appropriate medical treatment.

We met again with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM), transferred some supplies to them, and discussed our assessment of the condition and needs of farm animals in the stricken areas. We were also able to share our impressions about overall conditions for horses in the country. HSI/HSUS/HSVMA will work with CVM to prepare a summary of long range animal welfare programs of mutual interest.

We are preparing four pet dogs for evacuation and transport to Santa Domingo.


February 1, 2010; 3 p.m. EST

The full HSI/HSUS/HSVMA complement assembled in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday, January 30, for the second phase of our animal response mission, most team members traveling by road from the Dominican Republic.

Team leader Dave Pauli held several meetings with representatives of the Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) during the weekend, to better coordinate efforts and to make joint appraisal of urgent needs and priorities.

Visiting the U.S. Embassy, the team determined that the USAID and the USDA were effectively dealing with the safe transportation of pets of evacuating U.S. families. Team members also met with representatives of an airline, a contact that might prove helpful should it become necessary to transport animals out of Haiti in the future.

The team also returned to the mission that had housed the Katrina dogs Bella and Dieter, where veterinary personnel examined and wormed three staff members’ dogs. Then, at a major market/camping area, the team caught and treated six street dogs. They also met some more missionaries who invited them to schedule a visit to their ranch to inspect the health and condition of animals and tell more about our work.

On Sunday, the team made its second visit to a zoo operated by Baptist missionaries. Overwhelmed by the needs of the surrounding human population, they welcomed the team’s offer to assist with the animals. For the birds, the HSI/HSUS/HSVMA team suggested a better diet, cleaned and reworked cages and space, and provided items for enrichment. The team expanded the primate pen to offer twice the previous amount of space and added enrichment opportunities there as well. Finally, team members fixed the rabbit hutches and removed sharp wire from the goat pens. In all, they helped approximately 50 animals on the visit. The team is working to locate and arrange for the transport of additional supplies and food for animals at the facility.

In between assignments, team members arranged meetings with regional mayors, agricultural producers, and other stakeholders, to work out a plan for near and long term follow up on animal welfare assessments.

The team’s schedule also included a visit to a damaged granary to help with an assessment of necessary repairs and the potential for local production of animal feed, currently scarce.

On Saturday night, several members of the complement attended a “cartoon party” being put on by CVM for the children of one damaged village.

Meanwhile, everyone was delighted to hear that two dogs belonging to a U.S. family had made it safely to Florida and enjoyed a happy reunion, thanks to the work of HSI/HSUS/HSVMA.

Read a dispatch from the field by HSI Disaster Certified Responder Chris Broughton-Bossong.

January 27, 2010; 5 p.m. EST

Today, the HSI team and two veterinarians from Christian Veterinary Mission met with the chief veterinarian of Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture, to discuss urgent animal needs and problems as well as future relief and assistance. The ministry is seeking our immediate cooperation with the restoration of its rabies vaccination program.

The HSUS and HSI are also working to solve the problem of restrictions on the evacuation of pets owned by Americans leaving Haiti to return to the United States, reaching out to the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control, and the State Department to smooth the way for the safe and swift transport of these animals. 

HSI is developing a list of the animals and families affected; making plans for a temporary holding area in Haiti should it become necessary to shelter them in place; and working on a system for transport of animals to the Dominican Republic, where we are engaged with our partner group Veterinary Care and Human Service in developing a temporary holding facility for animals brought across the border.

Our team has purchased vehicles to support the ground teams in their work.  Staff member Dave Pauli will lead the second wave of HSI/HSUS/HSVMA response, as part of a larger team scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, January 30. 

Team members driving into Haiti from the Dominican Republic have agreed to transport Christian Veterinary Mission personnel involved in relief work.

Dieter and Bella, the two dogs who have survived both Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake disaster, will arrive in the United States on Friday, January 29, for reunion with their family.

One HSI responder is going to Jacmel, Haiti’s fourth largest city, to assess urgent and near term animal welfare needs there.



January 26, 2010; 9:30 p.m. EST

Today, the team went to the U.S. Embassy and found some soon-to-be evacuated families concerned about their pets; we will do what we can to help.

The organization Save the Children learned we were here in Haiti and asked for our help in addressing an issue at a children’s hospital in Port-au-Prince. A number of dogs have been showing up at night on the grounds and going through garbage. One dog in particular was getting into everything, including supplies. Our team responded today and our paramedic/animal-handler extraordinaire Lloyd Brown managed to finally catch her. The dog, Hai-chien, is very sweet and our team has fallen in love with her. We’ll find a good home for her and she’ll be in our care until then.

We continue to work closely with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) and expect that two of their staff will join our group on Friday. One focus of our work together will be helping the working horses and donkeys of Haiti.

Finally, our meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture is scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday. CVM will join us then in talking to the Ministry’s Head Veterinarian.

January 25, 2010; 8:00 p.m. EST

Today, the team met with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) to exchange ideas. CVM has a long history of working in Haiti, knows the culture well, and shared useful information with us, including the fact that before the disaster, the Haitian government had been working to vaccinate the country's approximately 500,000 dogs and cats through free community clinics. The government would like to continue this project in the countryside and unaffected areas of the country as soon as possible; this is something we are hoping to help with.

Meanwhile, a large part of the city population is now making its way to the countryside, with horses and donkeys being used as transport. We are concerned these animals are possibly being overworked; our team will explore this issue further.

Tomorrow, HSI and CVM have a joint meeting scheduled with the Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry with responsibility for all animals in Haiti. There, we will discuss what the ministry believes we can do to assist further now and in the long term.

January 24, 2010; 12:45 p.m. EST

We’ve discovered that we are one of the better-prepared groups on the ground in Port-au-Prince, so we have been working with humanitarian and other organizations to provide supplies and conduct assessments in outer areas. This morning our responders provided medical supplies to doctors working in the capital, and then headed out to the Quiskeya University to check out reports of large numbers of animals on site. The Metro Boston disaster medical assistance team stationed there helped us conduct an assessment of the area. Fortunately, we encountered no injured animals.

Afterwards we left for Leogane, an area considered one of the worst affected in the country. After viewing the devastation—building flattened, many people dead and displaced—we agree that it could possibly be in worse shape than Port-au-Prince. We spoke with farmers there and discovered that their horses and cattle had survived the earthquake in pretty good shape, but there were concerns about the effect of the disaster on their health, energy, and milk production going forward. We’re exploring the possibilities for a long-term husbandry project in this region.

January 23, 2010; 9:30 p.m. EST

In a late-evening report from the team, we learned that after assessing conditions at the zoo, they visited a town outside of Port-au-Prince called Croix-des-Bouquets to check on the farm animal situation. There, they saw goats, chickens and horses; all appeared okay, but many structures for housing animals were in ruin throughout the area. Our responders plan to visit another town about two hours outside of Port-au-Prince called Leogane to check on farm animals there as well.

Meanwhile, doctors from a New York hospital working on the ground in Haiti have asked for our team’s help in reviewing the human situation in these outer towns as well, since many of the humanitarian groups don’t have vehicles or access out of Port-au-Prince such as we have managed to obtain. Some believe there may still be people—alive—buried under the rubble in these smaller towns.

Finally, our team plans to explore the rumor that dogs are eating human cadavers. The local people have heard talk of this and will guide them to the location where it is said to be happening.


January 23, 2010; 6:05 p.m. EST

Today, the team visited a local zoo and found it had escaped major damage during the earthquake. Our partner, Veterinary Care & Human Services, Caribbean Project of the Dominican Republic, is hoping to work with the zoo to improve conditions for the animals there.

Before our responders crossed into the country, HSI had heard from a U.S. family living in Haiti who had been forced to leave their pets behind when they evacuated to Florida directly after the disaster. We were able to travel this afternoon to the orphanage where the two dogs, Bella and Dieter, were being looked after, and make plans to transport them to safety in the Dominican Republic.

HSI is also preparing for a second wave of veterinarians and disaster responders to deploy to Haiti in the coming days.

We are grateful to American Dog Rescue, a Dallas-based non-profit group, which is supporting our efforts by matching donor contributions dollar-for-dollar for up to $50,000. These funds will go toward the HSI/HSUS/HSVMA Haiti response efforts. We would also like to send our thanks to Eline Mystal, who is allowing our team to stay at her Port-au-Prince home, and our partner in this endeavor, Veterinary Care & Human Services, Caribbean Project of the Dominican Republic.



January 22, 2010; 6:50 p.m. EST

After crossing the border yesterday evening, the team had to deal with a flat tire, two aftershocks and their truck overheating, but fortunately they were finally directed to their lodging for the night by two helpful local men whom they then hired to join the group as guides.

As they drove into the country, they saw cattle grazing in fields, stray dogs and rubble everywhere. People are still fearful of getting too close to buildings in case of further collapse. 

Today, the team traveled to a site where tent cities had been set up and found many more dogs wandering around the area. Aside from being hungry, the animals encountered there seemed to be in okay condition, but starvation, dehydration and disease remain threats, especially to the injured.

Our vet Rebecca, paramedic Lloyd and the rest of our group attempted to get to the U.S. Embassy, but the lines were so long they gave up temporarily. They did attend a meeting of Interaction, a coalition of non-governmental organizations of which HSI is a member, where security issues were discussed.

Rebecca reported, “The local people are amazing! In spite of the horror surrounding them, their hospitality goes above and beyond. Some won’t accept gifts because we are helping their country.”

Tomorrow, they plan to visit the outskirts of the city to review the situation for farm animals and companion animals further removed from crowds of people and food.


January 21, 2010; 6 p.m. EST

The team just notified us that they made it over the border. More to come.

HSI Team Arrives in Haiti

January 21, 2010; 1:45 p.m. EST 


Our team of disaster responders left Santo Domingo, DR this morning with a fully loaded SUV and trailer. We expect them to reach the border and cross over into Haiti this afternoon. They will treat animals they encounter on the way to Port-au-Prince...

We will post information as possible.

January 19, 2010

Amid the fast-changing and round-the-clock relief efforts for Haiti, Humane Society International has assembled a team of trained veterinary experts to enter Port-au-Prince in the coming 48 hours. The team, representing HSI, The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, is partnering with a group in the Dominican Republic, Veterinary Care & Human Services, Caribbean Project (VCHS).

Our HSI/HSUS/HSVMA field responders include a French-speaking veterinarian and a paramedic trained in disaster response and animal handling. They will be accompanied by two veterinary technicians from VCHS and a translator. The team will provide immediate animal care as it can, and also assess conditions for animals in the capitol city and surrounding areas. As circumstances permit, our experts will also advise emergency and relief workers on extra steps they might take in the coming days to alleviate the suffering of animals while the desperate work to help the island’s human population continues. 

January 15, 2010

We continued today with our evaluation of how best to help. As of now:

  • We're working with local groups in the Dominican Republic to get a team of animal responders and veterinarians into Haiti.
  • We're sending a veterinarian trained in disaster response associated with our partner organization, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, to the Dominican Republic to spearhead our efforts.
  • We are coordinating our efforts with those of the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti.
  • We've communicated with humanitarian relief agencies and are poised to address the security, transportation, housing, and supply challenges that accompany deployment.  

January 13, 2010

Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti, for the trauma and loss they’ve already experienced since the earthquake hit. News agencies report that thousands have perished, many are still trapped in the rubble of buildings, and hundreds of thousands of others are without shelter, medical care, or other life necessities. Governments and relief agencies are deploying to deal with what amounts to one of the worst disasters of modern times, with its impact compounded by the chronic poverty, deficient infrastructure, bare-bones medical care, and other problems that afflict the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.

When people suffer in this terrible way, so do animals. HSI, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association are working on a preliminary review of Haiti’s animal-care needs, taking into account the security, transportation, housing, and supply challenges that we would face in deployment. Fortunately, one of our veterinary teams had been conducting a program at a veterinary school in the neighboring Dominican Republic when the quake struck. We are looking to determine if they can get into Haiti to conduct an on-the-ground assessment. We are also communicating with human relief agencies, and looking to cooperate with them. One difficulty is that there are no organized animal welfare groups anywhere in the country, and no animal shelters or veterinary schools. This lack of infrastructure will complicate any response.


More News

Watch an interview with HSI President & CEO Andrew Rowan on MSNBC 

Read blog entries by Humane Society of the U.S. President & CEO Wayne Pacelle: January 14  January 22  January 25  January 29