James Sawyer, our Director of Disaster Managment feeds a three-year-old dog named Russe. Cabo Monte, Fogo Island, Cabo Verde December 18, 2014. ©World Animal Protection
Evacuated animals in disaster zones are often among the least considered, forgotten victims. Unless owners are prepared and have a plan, fast, unpredictable and terribly destructive disasters often leave them no choice to abandon or release their animals in the final moments of safety.
Think for a moment about animals with no one particular owner. The friendly cat that hangs around the neighbourhood; the “community” dogs seen across the developing world. Eking out existence through the kindness of strangers and dodging blows from less friendly people in the villages and towns, these animals truly live on the margins.
We see it everywhere following disasters, dogs who previously found food and occasional affection from villagers and residents of towns, left alone, injured, scared and hungry in the wake of events they do not understand that turn their familiar patterns of life into scary, dangerous unknowns and sadly often slow, painful ends.
With 50 years experience responding to disasters we’ve been there to help these animals. Evacuating survivors, treating injuries, and providing feed and health-boosting medications to many, reuniting them with their displaced communities and finding permanent homes for the luckiest few.
He was old and exhausted. Lying in the shade at the side of the road. A large open wound on his back haunch, you could just see what he once was. A large, formerly powerful dog, he was now tired, injured and wasting away.
We had to help him. We disinfected his wounds and fed him dog food – surely his first large meal in days if not weeks. We’d carefully mixed in medications into his food to bring him back to health and injected him with antibiotics to ensure his wounds would not get infected.
Gerardo Huertas, team lead on the Cabo Verde response feeds the injured dog. Cabo Monte, Fogo Island, Cabo Verde December 18, 2014. ©World Animal Protection
Displaced along with an entire village engulfed in lava, he and hundreds of other dogs were suddenly in new unfamiliar ground, where the peace achieved by clear territories and power structures was no longer in place. The old guy’s time as top dog was clearly over. His body bore the tears and scars of vicious bites from other dogs running scared and fighting for a spot in the new world.
We spoke to some people nearby who said someone had been caring for him as best they could since the eruptions but was not around at the moment. We left additional medications and agreed with the local government officials that he was one to revisit and keep an eye on. We want to ensure he makes a full recovery and slowly regains his health and the communities rebuild around him.
Our young local contact, Manuel do Santos, 31 promised he would. As an energetic, caring man as well as an animal lover, Manuel was instrumental to us finding and helping animals like the old dog by the side of the road. We’ll be supporting him over the next few months as he coordinates the delivery and distribution of aid we’re providing. I will also keep you up to date on how the dog and the thousands of other animals on Fogo Island are doing.