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July 11, 2012

Milot, Haiti: A Community Comes Together for Animals

Humane Society International

  • Street dogs are everywhere. Tansim Knox, MD

  • Vets examine a puppy. Tansim Knox, MD

  • Undergoing a procedure. Treasa Smith

  • HSI's Kelly Coladarci holds a cat after an eye operation. Diane Belanger

  • Draped for sterilization surgery. Tansim Knox, MD

  • This puppy named Buddy is being fostered by one of the vets. Treasa Smith

  • IV in a paw. Treasa Smith

  • IV fluids to be given during surgery. Tansim Knox, MD

  • The dogs recover after spay/neuter surgery. Tansim Knox, MD

by Amelia Muccio

A dedicated group of people representing multiple organizations united to support HSI’s recent five-day spay/neuter, vaccine and deworming field clinic in Milot, Haiti, but the endeavor started with one woman, Treasa Smith—an employee of the Center for Rural Development in Milot (CRUDEM) concerned about street animals in the town.

Treasa saw a lot of very sick dogs on her daily hikes and one day, after witnessing a dog suffering in particular agony before dying, she felt she simply had to act.

Treasa reached out to Best Friends Animal Society, our supporting partner in Haiti, and they recommended that she contact HSI. With the support and permission of Dr. David Butler and Joni Paterson of CRUDEM, she then wrote to us.

Partnerships for success

CRUDEM, a charity that runs the largest private hospital in northern Haiti, gave approval for Treasa to ask HSI to help the dogs and cats of Milot. Milot is an eight-hour car ride from HSI’s base in Croix-des-Bouquets and thanks to Treasa’s fundraising campaign for HSI, CRUDEM was able to provide food and lodging for our entire team during the clinic.

Others also joined the efforts immediately. Roguez St. Louis and Joseph Dianstec of the Center for Reflection of Development in Milot (CRDM), a community group, aided HSI in planning and promoting the clinic among the local people. In addition, Bill Younger of the Good Shepard Baptist School and Church allowed HSI to host the clinic on that property.

With such overwhelming support in place, HSI staff decided to make the journey to offer the requested clinic.

Rare opportunity

We arrived in Milot on July 1, 2012 with a team of 10 people, including two international volunteer veterinarians, Christian Desroches and Patrick Nadeau of Montreal and Quebec City, respectively. Also participating were the North’s Ministry of Agriculture veterinarians and vet agents and local residents who are currently unemployed or underemployed who agreed to serve as community liaisons.

The clinic operated from July 2-6 and treated 350 (mostly) dogs and cats. The citizens embraced the rare opportunity to provide medical services to their pets. In fact, Treasa called to let us know that about 25 people had lined up the following Monday in the hopes of having their animals seen. It was a bittersweet reminder that despite the clinic's success, HSI’s work here is far from done.

Socially responsible development

Milot is a significant tourist destination in Haiti, home to the Sans Souci Palace, a revered landmark, and The Citadel, Haiti’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both Roguez and Joseph acknowledged that tourism is vital to Milot’s economy and no tourist wants to see animals dying or starving to death. Rabies vaccinations are also key to ensuring public safety for both residents and visitors.

Expanding the scope

In a country where human health is still not adequately addressed, it was great to see NGOs and community members align to support the animals of Milot and further reinforce the benefits and intersection of human and animal welfare.

We would like to expand our efforts in Milot to include the treatment of working equines suffering from crippling sores and malnutrition who carry tourists to the Citadel day in and day out. Tim Traynor of CRUDEM has already linked HSI to several of his connections in the hope that we can continue to address the animal welfare needs in the area.

A very special thanks to Sheila Cordtz for her time and generosity and the deepest thanks and gratitude to Treasa Smith for seeing the unmet need and acting on it.

Amelia Muccio is director of HSI's Haiti project and disaster operations.

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