We’re on the ground in Turkey to help save animals

By Kitty Block

By on February 21, 2023 with 3 Comments

Over the weekend, our disaster relief team arrived in Turkey (Türkiye) to provide emergency relief to thousands of dogs, cats and other animals in the aftermath of the devastating and fatal 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the region earlier this month.

When the first team members arrived in Antakya on Saturday, they got their first glimpses of the harsh realities facing survivors. Antakya was once one of the most beautiful cities in the country; now virtually every building is destroyed or damaged. Tents of refugee and rescuer camps dot the horizon. There are dogs and cats wandering about in many communities, street animals alongside pets who no longer have homes. Piles of pet food are being left for them on street corners.

Humane Society International-supported local Turkish group Homeless Animal Protection Society helps animals after the earthquake in Turkey in February 2023. Homeless Animal Protection Society

A local veterinarian told our team his story: His clinic collapsed during the earthquake, and he was dug out from the rubble. He and his wife immediately set up a veterinary tent with other volunteer vets to treat animals. Our team, including our own veterinarian Claudia Edwards from Mexico, is working at that field hospital to take care of animals, and respond to pleas for help from locals desperate to find their lost pets. Our veterinarian host is just one of the many Turkish citizens our team has encountered, people who demonstrate incredible resilience and selflessness despite experiencing immense loss and displacement.

Our team is going out daily to respond to reports of animals still alive in damaged buildings, and they’ve been able to save lives—dogs and cats struggling to survive alone in apartments or wandering through the rubble, often suffering from cuts and bruises or from shock, malnutrition, dehydration and infections. There is also a steady stream of people coming into the field tent—which was set up by local vets and is where our team is working—to look for their missing animals or bring in found dogs and cats in need. The rest of our team met up with other local animal groups operating in the area to assess together where help is most needed.

Thousands of dogs, cats, horses and farm animals remain in need of aid in the aftermath of the earthquake. Emrah Gurel/AP Images for HSI

Ahead of our team’s arrival, Humane Society International provided emergency financial assistance to local animal rescue groups such as Yuk Hayvanlarani Koruma Ve Kurtama Dernegi (Working Animals Rescue Foundation) and Homeless Animals Protection Society, enabling them to dispatch veterinarians and response vehicles to get veterinary and relief supplies to the animals and their people most in need. Now, our experienced disaster responders have begun to arrive from all over the world—Europe, the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica, with more coming from Colombia and India—to assist local groups in the emergency.

HSI’s director of animal disaster response Kelly Donithan is leading the deployment. Donithan is a seasoned disaster responder who has helped rescue and bring aid to animals impacted by disasters in Australia, Africa, Beirut, and countries neighboring Ukraine, and she has been in contact with local groups that estimate, in addition to the tens of thousands of people who were tragically killed by the earthquake, hundreds of animals have likely lost their lives.

One of our rescue team members feeds a cat among the debris in Hatay’s Antakya district. Emrah Gurel/AP Images for HSI

Thousands of dogs and cats as well as horses and farm animals remain in desperate need of aid. Our team has found many animals suffering dehydration, so is setting up water stations on street corners alongside the pet food piles left by the local police, to bring relief to thirsty animals roaming the streets who are too nervous to be caught. Rescue groups have also been saving fish, birds and reptiles left behind in pet shops, and it’s obvious that in Antakya the locals who evacuated are desperately worried for their animal companions left behind, and warmly welcome our help in locating them.

HSI-supported local Turkish group Homeless Animal Protection Society comforts dogs found after the earthquake in Turkey. Homeless Animal Protection Society

Yesterday, another earthquake hit Turkey, this time 6.4 magnitude. We quickly established that our team was safe, and we were not surprised to hear that they were already preparing to head out again to search for more animals and bring them to safety. One heartwarming story they reported was of a mother dog they found among the broken buildings. She had very recently given birth, and our team quickly located her still-blind puppies so that they could bring the family back to the comfort of the field hospital. As soon as she felt secure, the mother dog fell into a deep sleep while her pups suckled, blissfully unaware of the chaos around them.

Our team brought puppies and their mother to the field hospital where they could be safe. Emrah Gurel/AP Images for HSI

A disaster of this magnitude is difficult to even fathom, and it’s heartbreaking to see the photos and videos coming in, knowing that they are just glimpses of the immense suffering of people and animals.

In the past, our rescue team has responded to disasters around the world to provide emergency treatment to animals affected by volcanic eruptions in Guatemala; deadly earthquakes in Nepal, Ecuador and Mexico; hurricanes, flash floods and cyclones in India, Haiti and Mozambique; and wildfires in Australia and Chile; as well as helping refugees and their pets fleeing the war in Ukraine. And right now, across the world in the wake of wildfires in Chile, we are providing two oxygen concentrators for wildlife, nine tons of food for farm animals and veterinary medical supplies for animal rehabilitation centers to support hundreds of wild, companion and farm animals affected by the fires.

When disaster strikes, we are truly honored to be able to assist however we can, and I have immense faith in our team.

You can make a difference by donating to help support our teams and their work in emergency situations such as this one.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

Animal Rescue and Care, Humane Society International

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Que bueno gracias a Dios y que Dios los bendiga por preocuparse por los animalitos

  2. Priscilla M Mendoza says:

    Deepest gratitude for all your enduring efforts saving dogs and cats in earthquake ravaged Turkey.
    I continue to donate to help HSI provide help to as many helpless animals as possible.

  3. Words Animals says:

    Animals play important roles in ecosystems and are often a source of food and livelihood for humans. They also have unique adaptations that help them survive in their environments, such as wings for flying, camouflage for blending in with their surroundings, or sharp teeth for catching prey.

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