Landmark animal aid bound for Cuba

Oct 16, 2008

A thin and injured horse in post-hurricane Cuba

WSPA’s disaster assessment and response team (DART) will deliver US$100,000-worth of coordinated veterinary aid in Cuba next week. This emergency relief is desperately needed after the country was devastated during hurricane season.

Having carried out an initial assessment, WSPA will be working in three of the worst affected areas – Pinar Del Rio, Isla De La Juventud, and Holguin – bringing veterinary supplies and expertise to at least 42,000 weakening animals.

A forgotten disaster

While media attention was focused on the possibility of damage to New Orleans and US states in late summer, Cuba was battered and flooded by three hurricanes: Gustav, Fay, and Ike.

Cuban economists estimate the effect of the hurricanes has put the country’s development back eighteen years.

Earlier this month, Cuban authorities welcomed WSPA’s Latin America-based DART into the country to assess animal welfare needs. This is the first time an animal welfare organization has been allowed to conduct a disaster assessment in the country.

Animals in dire need

While the government focuses on Cuba’s humanitarian needs, thousands upon thousands of much-loved pets and vital draft animals – depended on for transport and agricultural work – are suffering.

Lack of nutritional pasture and the violent effects of the hurricanes have left animals in need of dietary supplements, treatment for their injuries, protection from parasites, and vaccinations to guard their damaged health in the coming months.

Gerardo Huertas, WSPA’s Disaster Operations Director for the Americas, said: “Rarely do we see levels of devastation of the scale that we have uncovered in Cuba. The fact that people and their animals are coping alone without the help of the smashed veterinary service makes our work absolutely critical. Without help, animals will suffer unnecessarily and this will contribute towards a wider crisis.”

During this historic operation the WSPA team will work alongside local vets to deliver key medicines, vitamins, and minerals to oxen, horses, donkeys, mules, and over 24,000 cats and dogs.

Cuba’s government has generously offered the entire nation’s vets to assist in the relief operation, demonstrating how vital animals are to the Cuban people.


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