QUITO – Volunteers are working to help animals, the silent victims of natural disasters, in the aftermath of the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that killed 413 people and injured more than 2,000 others in Ecuador.
Lost and abandoned dogs wander the streets of the Pacific coastal areas shattered by Saturday’s earthquake, with some pets sleeping in the rubble of their former homes, waiting for owners that may never return.
“Animals are sentient beings, who need to have rights, we can’t keep looking the other way. Beings that are often the victims of injustice and abuse at the hands of people who think that because they’re humans they hold a special place over other beings,” Jordan Cruz, a member of animal rights group Defensa de la Vida Animal, told EFE.
Cruz is working in one of the centers where supplies for earthquake victims are received, collecting dog and cat food, as well as feed for livestock.
Initial reports indicate that there are “animals that are victims, that are very badly injured and others that have been abandoned,” Cruz said.
A team of 10 veterinarians and rescue workers is heading into the disaster zone in Pedernales to treat animals “in emergency situations, victims of the earthquake,” the animal rights activist said.
The team is carrying more than 300 kilos (660 pounds) of food for the animals, Cruz said.
The team plans to either stay in Pedernales or continue on to other areas devastated by the quake, depending on the situation.
Defensa de la Vida Animal, which was founded 12 years ago, has assisted animals after different natural disasters.
The organization has volunteers from a number of different countries, including Germany, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina and Brazil, and uses cash donations to buy food and other supplies for animals in distress.
“We’re going to help all the animals we can, farm animals, cattle, horses,” Cruz said.
The volunteers plan to set up a work area for the veterinarians if they can find a tent and plan to search the streets for injured animals, Cruz said.
The most seriously injured animals may be taken to Quito, where they will be treated, fostered by volunteers and put up for adoption, the animal rights activist said.