Personnel from five equine industry organizations are working together to bring food, water, and veterinary services to horses stranded in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria slammed into the U.S. territory on Sept. 20 packing 155 mile-per-hour winds and driving rains that knocked out virtually all of the island’s power and destroyed many of its structures.
About 950 racing and non-racing horses were evacuated to the Hipódromo Camarero racetrack, in San Juan, ahead of the storm. But amid the destruction, some were abandoned by their caretakers without food, water, or basic care, said Marty Irby, senior advisor of equine protection and rural affairs for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Days after Maria moved on, Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare confirmed that four horses had died as a result of the lack of resources.
On Sept. 28 representatives from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), American Veterinary Medical Association, The Jockey Club, and US Equestrian met with HSUS to discuss how the groups might combine to help the horses in Puerto Rico.
“We all sort of have a list of tasks that we’re working on to help basically move feed, hay, and supplies into the region and specifically sort of make—and this is subject to the proper approvals—the track in San Juan a home base, to first help there and afterward others (on the island) who may need supplies and things," Irby said.
But the process is not without complication. A plane packed with veterinary and other supplies including thousands of bales of hay waits in Ocala, Florida, pending clearance from the U.S and Puerto Rican governments and a landing site that can accommodate the aircraft.
“There’s an issue of proper chain of command and paperwork and there’s also an issue of debris and whether they can land the plane,” Irby said. “But everyone on every end is willing to move forward.”
Those logistical issues are expected to be resolved by the end of the week, Irby said.
Meanwhile, those interested in contributing to the Puerto Rico equine emergency fund should contact the AAEP Foundation Equine Disaster Relief Fund, Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare, or the HSUS Disaster Relief Fund.