Features Directory
Tony Woodley
Published 15 September 2011

If we could help the animals, then we could also help the people


January 2010 an earthquake in Haiti caused untold devastation and suffering. A number of animal welfare organisations, including the RSPCA, joined together to provide relief for animals affected by the earthquake. I was there.

This photo was taken the day we drove through the worst affected area of Port Au Prince, known locally as 'ground zero'.

Buildings were totally destroyed, some teetering at bizarre angles and others so badly damaged they were condemned. The sights, sounds and smells from this crippled community were beyond words.

The abject poverty, loss and despair was plain to see but the people were incredibly resilient - they were down but not out.

In Haiti animals are variously currency, food and companions. We strongly believed if we could help their animals we could, in our own small way, help the people of this stricken community.

After travelling through the torn city we joined up with the Animal Rescue Coalition for Haiti at a semi-rural village north west of the city. The village - called Damien - had not survived the quake undamaged either.

There were many tents nearby where those from the city have moved away to seek safety and solace away from the wreckage in Port Au Prince.

The team had set up a treatment area and local people brought their pets and livestock for treatment and vaccination. There were also many pigs in open sheds and buildings nearby and during that day alone we treated over three hundred pigs.

A group of children brought their pet cat to us, carried inside a sugar bag. It was duly vaccinated and given dewormer and taken back again by the delighted kids.

A young boy of around six stayed near us for the whole day, playing with home- made toys and taking a great interest in our work. He even pointed out that our trousers were dirty and said we should be careful as one of us had trodden in pig dung.

As we left the village of Damien I gave two packets of Oreo cookies to the boy who had been so concerned for our cleanliness. He shouted "Mesi!" and waved vigorously as we headed away down the very rough road.

Not many people realise the RSPCA does international disaster relief work. But, when tragedy does strike people all over the world depend on animals for companionship, security, farming, transport, food and trade - so there is no better way for us to help.

Tony Woodley, RSPCA Inspector.


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