In Haiti, a country deemed the poorest in the world in 2012, human health is too often neglected due to the dire situation Haitians are facing. When people’s needs cannot be met, animals’ are even less of a priority. Animal welfare is not yet a concept in Haiti’s lexicon, and veterinary care is limited.
HSI is the only large international group in Haiti addressing street dog issues, and we are focused both on minimizing the level of suffering endured by the animals and on reducing the public health concerns that are inherent with large, unchecked stray populations.
Most of the dogs in Haiti live almost exclusively on the streets and in the alleyways, left to fend for themselves. Although people will often claim “ownership” of an individual dog, certain responsibilities such as physical contact, food provision and vet care are not necessarily included in this. Malnourishment, injury and disease are the primary causes of death for these timid creatures.
Since our team’s initial response to the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince in January 2010, we have been designing and implementing a series of projects in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture that are geared toward supporting the existing veterinary infrastructure and helping to increase capacity to address the needs of animals throughout the country.
- In October 2012, we brought together the Haitian Ministries of Education, Health and Agriculture at our “One Health Conference” to discuss the public health implications of street dogs and the importance of implementing a dog population management plan.
- We participated in the Ministry of Agriculture’s 2012 rabies vaccination campaign—the first public campaign since the 2010 earthquake—through which 250,000 street dogs were reached.
- We took part in World Rabies Day and Spay/Neuter Awareness Month with our team of Haitian veterinarians, the first wave of “animal welfare ambassadors” in the country’s history.
- We organize field clinics—11 of them in 2012, with multiple events planned monthly for 2013—to deworm and vaccinate street dogs against rabies, among other medical treatments.
- We have developed partnerships with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), international NGOs, and local communities in Haiti to address street dogs issues as they relate to human health.
- We provide humane education in communities and schools.
- HSI launched its equine welfare program in 2014 after several equine trainings for our veterinarians.
- A “Teach the Teacher” program was introduced in August 2013 with nearly 200 teachers trained to deliver dog bite prevention year after year. Additionnally, our veterinarians do school visits throughout the month in areas where they host their field clinics.
Despite the challenges that arose in the aftermath of various natural disasters, HSI helped more than 6,600 animals on the island in 2012.
Working for change
Our primary goal is to develop a sustainable infrastructure within the country’s veterinary community so that local vets might in turn carry out humane population control clinics, owner education initiatives and vaccination administration efforts on a country-wide scale.