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June 17, 2010

Committed to Haiti

Humane Society International

  • Chris treating a dog with an infected bite wound. Kerry Hustings.

  • Chris holds a dog close. Kathy Milani/HSI

  • Chris Broughton and Dr Meghan Hlusko with cows. Kathy Milani/HSI

  • Chris at an orphanage. Dr. Jay Merriam

  • Chris with a goat. John Benoit

  • A pig crosses a flooded street. C. Broughton-Bossong

  • Chris helps mount a new water cistern at the HSI/CVM vet training center. Kerry Hustings

by Chris Broughton-Bossong

After a massive earthquake hit Haiti on January 12th, Humane Society International sent teams of responders to the Caribbean nation to assist with immediate relief efforts and to begin assessing how we could effectively provide long-term aid to the animals and people devastated by this disaster.

Building a foundation

Thanks to the tremendous outpouring of support we received from our donors, we have had the opportunity to establish a continuing presence in the country through both an on-site Haiti Program Coordinator and a first-of-its-kind Animal Care Center. With long-term staff on the ground, we will be able to much more thoroughly understand and respond to the needs in Haiti and more importantly, develop a multi-year approach to address them.

A broad approach

Over the past two months, I have been meeting with local veterinarians, NGO representatives and government officials—both Haitian and American—to discuss what role HSI will be playing in the country over the next three to five years and what services we can provide. Our efforts here are five-fold:

1) We have identified a location for and are in the early stages of opening the first animal care and veterinary training center in the country. Just outside Port-au-Prince, this facility will provide us with the space and accommodations to offer small animal care and surgical training, equine care and medical training, disaster response training, and housing for foreign veterinary and disaster response experts who are willing to volunteer their time to help advance these endeavors.

2) We will offer field spay/neuter and general health clinics for both pets and street animals.

3) We are planning field equine care and welfare clinics.

4) We will give advanced veterinary training to Haitian vets.

5) We will deliver a series of disaster response and management trainings to veterinarians and government officials around the country.

Using local resources

With each of our clinics, our strategy will involve not only helping animals in need of veterinary care, but simultaneously working with local veterinarians to help improve their skills. In all of our projects here, we will focus on ensuring sustainability by doing our best to increase the potential of local resources rather than merely replacing them with temporary ones.

As with any fledgling program, a good portion of our time is currently being spent identifying such local resources, building professional relationships with local groups and mapping out our projected areas of response across the country. Although Port-au-Prince was the hardest-hit section of the country, the needs of the animals in Haiti in no way end at the city limits. HSI is extending our efforts nationwide and will be working with vets across the country.

Positive response

It will not surprise anyone to hear of the tremendous poverty, suffering and need that persist in Haiti. However, what may not be communicated as often is the level of concern people have for the animals here. Our efforts have been positively received and our interactions with people and their animals have been very warm. Many residents would like to provide better care but lack financial ability, basic knowledge, or access to a skilled veterinarian. In spite of the many challenges that we face ahead, it is very encouraging to see that when a compassionate approach is available, people often choose to embrace it.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been offered the chance to take part in the recovery of Haiti and am confident that with continued support, HSI will play a valuable role in the advancement of the nation’s views of and approach to animal welfare in general.

Chris Broughton-Bossong is HSI's Haiti Program Coordinator. An experienced veterinary technician with a background as an animal control officer (with the Washington Humane Society), wildlife animal handler, and disaster responder (with The Humane Society of the United States), he also oversaw the care for 11 of the dogs impounded during the trial of Michael Vick. More recently, he has worked on establishing a new organization, Animal Resource Coalition International. He relocated to Haiti to better develop and implement HSI's long-term plans and will be living and working in this challenging environment for at least the next year.