Kinship Circle & Chilean coalition help in earthquake aftermath
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
ST. LOUIS–While U.S. animal rescuers watched and waited for
the Deepwater Horizon oil slicks to drift ashore and wreak havoc,
Kinship Circle founder Brenda Shoss tried to alert the world to a
little noticed humane crisis in Chile–including a growing risk that
dogs might be massacred in the tent cities housing much of the
displaced population of Talquahano.
Aftershocks from the February 27, 2010 Chilean earthquake
and tsunami continued into May. The initial earthquake measured 8.8
on the Richter scale, among the strongest ever recorded. The entire
captial city of Santiago was moved 11 inches to the west.
[Contact: Kinship Circle Animal Disaster Aid Fund, 7380
Because Chilean buildings have been built to withstand
earthquakes since the rise of the ancient Andean civilization, more
than 1,000 years ago, the 521 human deaths were fewer than in some
individual building collapses in other recent disasters.
But the earthquake, aftershocks, and tsunami caused ongoing
fires and oil spills. Half a million houses were damaged or
destroyed, displacing about two million people. Tens of thousands
remain displaced, with their animals, nearly three months later.
Shoss, of St. Louis, won a reputation as unofficial
disaster relief dispatcher for animal rescue volunteers from coast to
coast during Hurricane Katrina and aftermath in 2005. Beginning as
an activist alert network, Kinship Circle has matured into a
disaster relief organization with paid consultants coordinating
volunteers in the field–but the Kinship Circle work in Chile has
barely been noticed by U.S donors.
“We’ve had a lot of publicity on the Chilean side,” Shoss
told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “but have struggled tremendously to raise funds
in the U.S. because Chile has been sandwiched between Haiti, the oil
spill, and the recent floods,” which hit Nashville hardest and
obliged the Humane Society of the U.S. to move the Animal Expo 2010
conference from the flood-damaged Gaylord Opryland Resort to the
Nashville Convention Center.
“Kinship Circle has been working with Socorro Animal Chile,
a coalition of 15 Chilean animal groups and affiliated veterinarians,
since shortly after the earthquake,” Shoss said. “We have been
traveling with SACH staff and veterinarians north and south of
Concepcion to 30 tent camps since the quake and tsunami. Most of the
long-term damage and reason for evacuation was due to the tsunami.
We need money for continued food and veterinary supplies and will be
deploying to work with the Chilean vets and SACH through at least
Kinship Circle personnel including veterinarian Dan Meakin
and information officer June Towler averted a dog massacre near
Talquahano on May 7, Towler reported, but Towler expected that the
risk would recur.
“Too many dogs roam the narrow corridors of this cramped tent
city,” wrote Towler, paraphrasing the camp mayor. “People cannot
even feed themselves. How can they feed their dogs? Strays mix with
the pet dogs. Dogs defecate everywhere. No one disposes of the
feces. This is a public health concern. In Chile, animals don’t
live inside homes. Here, animals live in tents that are so closely
aligned, there is literally no outside space around them. Some
animals are well behaved. But some cause conflict with others. Most
of the people truly love their animals,” Towler said. “They welcome
our treatment visits. But despair propels them to euthanize their
animals, rather than watch them starve.”
Towler recommended that Kinship Circle teams should
“establish a daily tent city route to treat dogs for mange, fleas,
and other parasites, and distribute food. However, we cannot leave
full, unopened food bags,” Towler warned, lest the food be stolen
and sold. Towler also recommended that Kinship Circle teams should
“build a dog park area within tent cities, to contain dogs for
people without room, or who don’t want dogs inside their tents,”
and should “work with tent city mayors to implement a poop-and-scoop
program,” but precautions would have to be taken, she said, to
ensure that the necessary tools would not be stolen and sold.
Earlier reports from Kinship Circle team members Cheri
Deatsch and Sister Michael Marie described treating between 30 and
100 injured animals per day, often struggling with a lack of
resources. Veterinary supplies must be purchased within Chile,
Deatsch explained, because “Chile basically doesn’t allow people to
bring animal-related goods into the country.”
Field clinics often consisted of just “a door-sized board
laid atop two sawhorses” to improvise an examination table, Deatsch
wrote. Dogs and cats arrived in wheelbarrows, bird cages, and sugar
sacks, brought by people who often waited for hours for their pets
to receive treatment.
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