SLIDESHOW: Hundreds of Typhoon-stricken residents in the Philippines get care for their animals
We are back in Tacloban, just four days after conducting our rapid assessment, and this time around we bring with us two experienced veterinarians from our partner group the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), as well as boxes full of collars, leashes, vaccines, pet food, and other veterinary supplies.
The scene at the Tacloban City airport is a bit more subdued than the last time we were here, but it is so encouraging to see big mounds of food aid stacked up high at the edge of the tarmac and considerably shorter lines of evacuees trying to fly out on military aircraft.
Mr. Greg, our amazing driver, is back to greet us, and as we load everything into the vehicle it feels like we never left. With no time to waste, we head into Tacloban City and then on to Palo, a town about 20 minutes south.
During our assessment, we quickly realized that Palo was an ideal place to start given the large number of owned dogs and cats we saw and how advanced the town was in clearing up the roads from debris.
Before setting up our vet field station we met with each Barangay captain. Towns in the Philippines are divided into Barangays, or districts, and it’s important that we announce our presence to local authorities and then to residents through a loudspeaker, really the quickest and most effective way as there is no electricity so few have access to other ways of communications.
The word spreads quickly and as soon as we have our table set-up we see long lines of people bringing their dogs, cats, and even the odd iguana or duck!
We’re here to provide veterinary treatment, anti-rabies vaccines, antibiotics, vitamins, de-wormer medicine, food, and anything these pets may need in this time of crisis. Keeping animals healthy in the wake of this disaster is not only our primary mission, but also vital to ensure human health. Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease which means it can spread from animals to humans. Even in disaster-free environments, rabies accounts for 200-300 human deaths each year in the Philippines.
Once the animals are treated, they receive a colorful and visible new collar and leash so they’re easy to identify.
After our first three hours, we have already passed 150 animals and are well on our way to reach our target of 500 animals in the first two days.
The fact that the residents of Palo are showing up in such high numbers despite the short notice of our presence is both inspiring and encouraging. Faced with such unimaginable loss, residents walk, ride their bikes or crowd inside traditional jeepneys to carry their beloved animals to our field station. They are taking time off from putting a roof over their heads or from securing their next meal, what an incredible show of affection for their animal companions.