As I write, the second of two Humane Society International teams is in the field in the Philippines, leading response to the needs of animals and people in the areas ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Humane Society International has been on the ground conducting street dog management and veterinary training in the Philippines for four years, and our existing contacts and presence there allowed us to respond immediately. Our core responders include veterinarians and others who have trained and worked with us in these and other programs.
The conditions our responders have found range from lack of food, water, and shelter for companion animals, to the complete destruction of facilities, which is the case for farm animals. Many companion animals have suffered the stress and impact of separation from their owners, resulting in compromised health and problems like mange and other painful skin diseases. Some animals were left behind in cages or chained when their families evacuated, and this is an urgent challenge for responders working on the ground.
Bubba’s owner was in tears and quite surprised that
HSI actually showed up and answered his plea.
Team members have already started to move animals in need of critical care to our emergency shelter in Cebu City while continuing to provide care to other animals in the field. The HSI team also launched a hotline for people to report animals in need of rescue from Tacloban and surrounding areas; in the first 24 hours no less than 30 calls came in from desperate owners seeking assistance.
In some communities the team members visited, everything was destroyed and there was tremendous loss of life. But our responders have received a warm welcome, and people have been eager to present their animals for veterinary care, food and water.
I wanted to share a poignant anecdote from Dr. Rey Del Napoles, our team leader on the ground:
“A photographer friend sent an image of a placard placed on top of a dog kennel in the middle of the street which read ‘INT HUMANE SOCIETY PLEASE HELP ME! BUBBA.’ We assumed this must be a plea from an owner who wanted help for his dog and we made it a mission to try to find the location and help this animal. Incredibly, we were able to find the location, and we came upon the cutest six-month-old puppy who showered our team with kisses and hugs before we could even offer him food or water. The owner came over, very emotional and overwhelmed by our response. He only knew of our team because he had read about our work in the Philippines during previous disasters. He had no idea if we really existed and had just put up a placard because he was desperate, with no food or water left for his beloved Bubba, and we were the only agency he had heard of that helped animals. It was an emotional moment for the team and everyone (except Bubba) cried. This moment captured the bond between one man and his dog, and his hope against all odds that someone he had only imagined to exist would answer his call.”
I know that Rey and his team are committed to delivering more happy endings before our response in the Philippines comes to end.
To support the work of our disaster response team in this and future disasters, and to read more about our response to Typhoon Haiyan, click here.
Watch the HSI Animal Rescue Team on the ground in the Philippines: