Louisiana Vet Aids Haiti Animal Response

Renée Poirrier, DVM, an alumna of the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, and director of the Louisiana State Animal Response Team, traveled to the Domincan Republic and Haiti Feb. 7-14 to join an international coalition of animal emergency aid workers in Haiti. She responded as a member of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Emergency Relief Network, in support of the Animal Relief Coalition of Haiti (ARCH), which is jointly led by IFAW and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

The trip's mission was to assist the Haitian people with animal-related issues arising from recent earthquakes. The ARCH coalition is focusing on restoring community structure by treating livestock, poultry, donkeys, and horses in affected areas, and promoting public health by vaccinating animals for infectious diseases such as rabies and anthrax, which are transmissible to people. The long-term goal is to establish a network of community animal health clinics in the region.

Here is Dr. Poirrier's diary of her trip:

Sunday, Feb. 7: I flew into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and met team members Bill Tanguay of the Animal Rescue League of Boston and Todd Stosuy from Santa Cruz California Animal Control. I stayed overnight at the Euro Hotel in the historic district and watched the Saints win the Superbowl in the hotel lobby with an EMT group from Baton Rouge on their way home from Haiti.

Monday, Feb. 8: We flew into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on CaribAir Airlines and met with Dick Green from IFAW, director of Ground Operations for ARCH. We traveled by van to Léogâne, an outlying community within the major strike zone, accompanied by Dr. Thomas (first name), a veterinarian from the Haitian Ministry of Environment and ARCH's liaison to the Haitian government. In Léogâne, we met with Dr. Iam, a Haitian Ministry of Agriculture veterinarian, and Dr. Skinner, a U.S. Public Health Service veterinarian, to discuss providing a local community animal health clinic in Léogâne. Our team then met with the mayor of Léogâne to make sure he was in favor of having the clinic in his area for two to three days. This took most of the day because of the traffic in Port-au-Prince and the destruction on the roads.

Vets in Haiti vaccinate a pig

Dr. Renee Poirrier (left) and a volunteer from the Animal Rescue League of Boston deworm a pig.

That night we set up our tents at Sonapi, an industrial park near the airport and met the rest of our group, animal control officers from Soda Preca, Dominican Republic. Conditions were hot, noisy, and buggy. Our camp was well protected by a United Nations team assigned to provide security in the area. There was a constant need for vigilance. Food trucks from the Dominican Republic supplied food to the aid workers in the camp as well as to many Haitian citizens in Port-au-Prince.

Tuesday, Feb. 9: We traveled about one hour to Gaman village and met with Dr. Emile (first name), a Ministry of Agriculture veterinarian. We set up a community animal health clinic where we treated nearly 200 sheep, goats, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, horses, donkeys, and chickens. The Haitian Ministry of Agriculture supplied the vaccines. ARCH purchased dewormers and other medicines and brought them in from the Dominican Republic. We vaccinated dogs and cats for rabies and vaccinated cattle for anthrax; we treated all animals by deworming for parasites. Total numbers were 52 goats, 19 dogs, five cats, six horses, 12 cattle, 45 pigs, 25 sheep, 13 donkeys, and 12 chickens.

Wednesday, Feb. 10: We met Dr. Emile and traveled to Thomazeau, where we treated 158 animals (58 goats, 10 cows, 45 pigs, 12 chickens, 30 sheep, and three donkeys). Afterwards, we moved to Provence La Rate and treated 310 more animals. We saw 90 goats, 25 dogs, one cat, three horses, 110 cows, one pig, seven chickens, 47 sheep, nine donkeys, and seven ducks. At each clinic, animals were vaccinated, treated for internal parasites, and given an injection of B-complex vitamins to combat poor nutrition.

Thursday, Feb. 11: Our team was supposed to meet with Dr. Iam from the Ministry of Agriculture but she became ill. We then went to Léogâne and met with Dr. Skinner from the U. S. Public Health Service. The community had not been notified about the animal health clinic, so we could not set up as planned. A wasted day and a frustrating experience, but we did get to see a human vaccine clinic running in Léogâne.

That afternoon we moved our camp from the industrial park in Port-au-Prince to Dr. Thomas' house in the mountains, where it was much cooler. We met our new Director of Ground Operations, Gerardo Huertas from WSPA. We made plans to have two more animal health clinics in villages near Léogâne and enjoyed a delicious meal.

Friday, Feb. 12: We traveled to two villages near Léogâne and operated clinics using the protocols we had established. Dr. Gito (first name), a Haitian veterinarian, accompanied us.

Saturday, Feb. 13: We returned to the two villages near Léogâne to finish the health clinics we started Friday. The total number of animals seen at the villages was not compiled by the time we left but was estimated at approximately 300 in each location.

Sunday, Feb. 14: We returned to Port-au-Prince to fly out on CaribAir to the Dominican Republic and then back to the United States.

"We left our tents so that they could be distributed to people who need them," Poirrier said. "We also left the food we brought with us. ARCH is still in Haiti and is working on a long-term recovery program, including setting up spay/neuter vans. They are looking for lasting solutions to help animals and people."

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