Dita Alangkara, Associated Press
After the wreckage and devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, a short, stout man in his 50s was desperate for any aid for his beloved companion — his dog.
In a last attempt to help his starving pet Bubba, a 6-month-old puppy, the man placed the dog's shelter in the road with a sign bearing a simple plea: "INT. HUMANE SOCIETY PLEASE HELP ME!" It was signed, "Bubba."
The man had simply heard of the Humane Society International. He only hoped it actually existed.
Not long after, Rey del Napoles, a resident of Manila and licensed veterinarian, received a photo of the sign on the makeshift shelter.
Del Napoles, program manager of the Humane Society International in the Philippines, went in search of Bubba.
And when del Napoles found the man and his dog, the two men wept.
History of helping
Del Napoles is part of the Humane Society International team of 10 veterinarians that is providing aid to companion animals, like dogs and cats, in the aftermath of the typhoon.
"We can't respond (to every disaster) but we do have particular locations where we are active in any kind of response that's needed, the Philippines being one of them," said Washington-based Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International. India also has a very strong response force.
The Humane Society International has had an ongoing program in the Philippines for nearly five years. Based in the Philippines city of Cebu, the nonprofit group has trained hundreds of veterinarians in the country over the past four years.
"It made our response very effective and rapid in comparison with other (disasters) we've been involved with," O'Meara said.
Most of the veterinarians in the Philippines network are trained government veterinarians, and many outside of the core response team are on call if necessary.
Del Napoles has been in Tacloban, ground zero of the typhoon, since Nov. 13 as part of the team of veterinarians for the Humane Society International that mobilized after the storm. Since then, he and his team have made it their priority to reunite displaced animals with their families.
Reuniting man's best friends
Initially upon entering the city, del Napoles and his team's primary goal was to distribute food, medication like antibiotics and vitamins and to create shelters for animals.
Many families who evacuated Tacloban left hurriedly and were forced to leave their pets behind. Some have started to look for them.
After a fortuitous call from a family asking for help to locate their pet just days ago, del Napoles said he started the unification program through efforts on Facebook and on the ground. So far, they have evacuated eight dogs and reunited five of them with their families. The other three will stay with del Napoles and his team until they have received adequate medical attention.
Although the numbers of animals being located are modest, the task is a huge feat. Because the storm knocked down almost every home in Tacloban, del Napoles doesn't have a firm count of how many animals are now homeless. He estimates the number at 5,000.
A shelter has been established in Cebu for animals to be held until they are reunited with their owners.
In addition to the Facebook page, the Humane Society International has established a hotline for families to call to request the rescue of their animals. So far, more than 30 requests have been made.
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