As dusk approached, the smell of dust and burning trash filled the air while we drove
through the crowded streets of
Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Six years after the devastating
earthquake in 2010, Haiti still remains
the poorest country in the Western
We were traveling to a remote
village an hour outside the city. I was
tagging along with members of the U.S.
Army’s Veterinary Corps and the NGO
World Vets. This was their last stop
on an 11-country tour through Latin
America as part of the U.S. Navy’s 2015
Continuing Promise humanitarian mission. We were here to help Haiti’s pets.
On arrival, the team immediately set
up its makeshift MASH unit as villagers
with pets eagerly waited. Syringes were
filled, and foldout operating tables
were assembled. A translator shouted,
“Bring your pets forward for vaccinations.” A large line formed as more villagers began pouring in, some with cats
in small bags and others with leashes.
“Haiti is a unique situation,”
explained Major Marc Knobbe, U.S.
Army lead veterinarian in charge of the
mission. “There is no veterinary infra-
structure here, even though there are
over 1. 2 million pets in Haiti.”
The mission’s goal: to vaccinate,
spay/neuter, and deworm as many cats
and dogs as possible over the course of
two days. This was the last day of the
program before our hospital ship, the
USNS Comfort, would disembark and
sail back to the U.S., completing its five-
month mission. There were only a few
hours of sunlight left in the day to treat
as many pets as possible.
A crowd of curious people surrounded the operating tables while
the team worked. The Army is the
only branch in the service that has an
active duty veterinary corp. The CP- 15
team consisted of three Army veterinarians, two Army veterinary technicians, and members of World Vets.
Each cat was vaccinated for rabies
in addition to being given an oral
dewormer. Many of the cats, including some kittens, were in fragile
condition, suffering from the effects
of malnutrition, fleas, and wounds.
Those healthy enough were spayed
or neutered to help control the stray
“On-site surgeries differ from
those conducted in a sterile facility,” Major Knobbe said. “In order
to be more mobile, we use inhalation anesthesia. Working out in the
open surrounded by dirt was very
challenging, trying to keep things as
clean as possible. We have to assess
each animal prior to making the
decision to operate or not. It must
be in the best interest of the animal.”
Alan De Herrera is an award-winning filmmaker
and independent photojournalist. He has written,
photographed, and produced three documenta-ries. He lives in Laguna Beach, California, with his
mixed-breed dog, Rio.
MASH Unit for
Cats in Haiti
STORY AND PHOTOS BY ALAN DE HERRERA