The first team of animal rescue responders to enter Haiti - including veterinarians and trained staff - has been combing the countryside outside of Port-au-Prince over the weekend to determine how to help four-legged earthquake survivors.
The response team has provided food for many animals found wandering the streets, visited a local zoo to check on the animals there and visited an agricultural area to assess the needs of farm animals in the region, according to the Humane Society of the United States whose international and veterinary affiliates are conducting the mission.
“Our team is committed to assisting the animals of this disaster-stricken nation in any way possible,” said Kelly O'Meara, director of the Humane Society International's companion animals division. "As our team continues its work in Haiti we are already planning for a second wave of veterinarians and disaster responders to make their way to the affected area."
The team visited Leogane, a coastal city at the quake's epicenter, which experienced large numbers of casualties and where 80-90 percent of the buildings were flattened.
Farmers there reported that their horses and cattle had survived the earthquake in pretty good shape, but there were concerns about the effect of the disaster on the animals' health and future milk production. Humane Society International is exploring the possibilities for a long-term husbandry project in this region.
Before arriving in Haiti, the team received urgent pleas for help from an American couple living in Port-au-Prince who were forced to leave behind their two beloved dogs when evacuating after the earthquake. The team found the dogs, Bella and Deeter, and plans to transport them to the Dominican Republic.
American Dog Rescue, a Dallas-based non-profit group, is supporting The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International by matching donor contributions dollar-for-dollar for up to $50,000. These funds will go toward the HSI/HSUS/HSVMA Haiti response efforts.
Meanwhile, search dogs dispatched with rescue teams immediately after the earthquake are being hailed as heroes.
Here's Echo, a yellow Labrador Retriever who was part of a British rescue team combing the rubble in Port-au-Prince. Echo's handler said he found a little girl trapped under the rubble of her school allowing rescuers to pull her to safety and - while part of his nature not his professional training - provided a comfort to children living in the streets.