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Helping animal victims of the Costa Rica Earthquake

Feb 27, 2009

In an inspiring joint effort for animals, WSPA disaster relief teams, member societies, and supporters around the world banded together to bring vital emergency relief to animal victims of a devastating earthquake that struck Costa Rica in early January. 

The 6.1-magnitude earthquake - the biggest to hit Costa Rica in over 150 years - struck north-central Costa Rica on the afternoon of January 8, causing immediate destruction as entire buildings collapsed and landslides destroyed roads and bridges. In the aftermath thousands of people were forced to evacuate to temporary shelters as the government declared a national emergency.

Thousands of animals including cows, pigs, chickens, cats and dogs were also affected by the earthquake. 

"The area that was hit has a lot of small farms, and many cows and other farm animals were at risk of starvation and dehydration, as well as diseases such as mastitis," says WSPA Disaster Management Veterinary Coordinator Juan Carlos Murillo.  "Hundreds of cats and dogs were also left behind as people ran from their homes when the earthquake struck.”

Working together to help animals

A cow trapped by a landslide gets a lift from the team

Thanks to supporters around the world, as well as local member societies, volunteers, and donors, WSPA’s disaster relief team was able to spend three weeks on the ground helping animals.  The team was also interviewed on a national news station, leading to unprecedented public support.

“The response from the public was amazing - so many people were calling that our switchboard crashed twice,” says WSPA Latin America Office Manager Ana Arguedas.  “Cars were lining up outside of our office every day from 7am to 10pm bringing bags of pet food and donations.”

Overall the team was able to bring desperately needed relief to over 6,300 animals. 

“In the beginning we had groups just going around to individual houses and untying and feeding cats and dogs who had been left behind,” says Murillo.  “One of our local member societies also lent us a mobile clinic to treat injured and sick animals, and later we set up a temporary shelter to house abandoned pets until they could be reunited with their owners.

“The earthquake also cut off water supply to many dairy farms, and we had to truck in thousands of gallons of water as well as feed and hay.  And since many animals were already severely weakened and dehydrated we gave them crucial vaccinations and antibiotics to prevent the spread of illness and infections.”

As the intervention began to wind down, the team focused on reuniting the remaining pets with their families by placing ads and posters in affected communities.  The last dog was reunited with his owner in mid-February.  

“People who had lost so much were so happy to get their animals back,” says Murillo.  “One grateful family who was reunited with their dog also adopted a rescued cat, and named him ‘WSPA’.”

Thank you to everyone who supported WSPA’s work to help animal victims of this disaster, and other disasters around the world!

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