WSPA comes to aid of Cuba’s animals

Feb 3, 2009

Cuban vets worked with WSPA's disaster response team to deliver aid to the island's pets

More than 42,000 animals have been saved from life-threatening diseases and treated for injuries thanks to WSPA emergency aid delivered in the aftermath of the four hurricanes which struck Cuba at the end of last year.

Nearly US$120,000 of veterinary medicines, syringes, dressings and vitamins for farm animals and pets were donated by WSPA. These were administered by our teams and local vets in January.

The operation was planned by WSPA’s disaster assessment and response team and supported by the Cuban government.

It was made possible by the generosity of WSPA supporters.

Working together to save animals

WSPA’s initial visits to assess the impact of the hurricanes on animals represented the first time in Cuba’s history that an international animal welfare organization has been invited in to help.

“We were so pleased to be asked for assistance as the situation for the animals and people affected by the hurricanes was very grim,” explains Gerardo Huertas, WSPA’s Disaster Operations Director for the Americas.

“Cuban people are very dependent on draft animals for their livelihoods and many cows, oxen, horses and donkeys had been killed outright or were suffering from injuries, parasite infections and lack of food.”

Widespread suffering

Vital livestock were treated for injuries and parasites and given minerals to help regain their strength

Around half of the people in the severely affected areas in the northern and southern tips of the country own or use horses and oxen.

Additionally, thousands of dogs and cats were in need of veterinary care; their owners, struggling to feed them, were distressed by the plight of their pets.

“It was very touching to see people who had very little food for themselves trying to make sure that their pets were well looked after,” says Huertas.

He explains that, without WSPA support, thousands of animals would have died as their health slowly deteriorated.

The repercussions for the human population that depends on them would also have been grave: “The Cuban government was very far-sighted to consider the plight of animals in this desperate situation. The weakening or loss of 20,000 draft animals, for example, has the potential to endanger the livelihoods of some five million inhabitants and the nutrition of nearly a million.”

Next steps

WSPA hopes its relationship with Cuba will continue. Work undertaken in fair weather – such as creating secure animal shelters and devising an emergency vet response plan – could save lives when disaster strikes. 

We also look forward to the day when we will work with our first Cuban member society.

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