IFAW Responders in Chile: Seventy-One Happy Endings
This report was filed this morning by the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Emergency Responder Michael Booth who is on the ground in Chile.
In the late hours of a cold Patagonian night, two trucks filled with 71 happy endings ended their long and hard journey. As the trucks approached their final destination, the loud barking sounds coming from their precious load pierced through the silence. The Chaiten dogs were here at last! This 30+ hour trip to Puerto Montt was only the final leg of a 16-day ordeal that began with a loud blast that came out of nowhere.
The long-dormant Chaiten volcano exploded in Southern Chile on May 2. Thousands of Chaiten residents were forced to evacuate right there and then without their pets. Hundreds of cats and dogs were left behind in a ghost town that now lies under a cover of ash.
After a huge national and international outcry, the Chilean government evacuated an estimated 100 dogs and cats from the impacted area and handed them over to the local group: Albergando un Amigo, Spanish for ‘sheltering a friend’. A number of animals were reunited with their owners close-by, but most had to stay in a temporary shelter that was set-up by the Army in horse stables.
A large majority of the human evacuees relocated to the closest city in the region: Puerto Montt, here they anxiously awaited for news on the whereabouts of their beloved pets.
Last night, as those trucks approached, the prayers concerning 71 of those dogs were answered. As we unloaded the crates, signs of the dogs’ ordeal were easily recognizable. Scared and dehydrated, the dogs were patiently given a warm bath, food and water before going through individual veterinary checks.
Four hours and fifteen minutes later, the team of vet students from the San Sebastian University in Puerto Montt, staff from Albergando un Amigo, and IFAW had processed 71 dogs, 71 happy endings for the lucky owners that were reunited with their animals.
Hundreds animals may still be in Chaiten and unfortunately animal welfare groups have yet to convince the local authorities to allow entry to the restricted 30km ‘no-entry’ zone around the volcano.
As the window of opportunity to rescue these animals closes, we start to wonder how many happy endings will come before there will be no more. IFAW, together with international and local groups continue to offer assistance to rescue these forgotten animals.