Shelter lends helping paw to animal victims of Syria war

November 11, 2016 | By | Reply More

In the sandy yard of a shelter near the Syrian capital Damascus, a three-legged dog bounds excitedly, her tongue swinging as she runs despite her amputated limb.

animal victims of Syria warBetty is one of 350 animals housed at a farm-turned-shelter run by the Syrian Team for Animal Rescue (STAR), whose volunteers describe their wards as “forgotten victims” of Syria’s war.

“The war spared no one. Animals have fled just like human beings, but at least humans have refugee centres and organisations to feed them,” say Hamada Azqul, an agricultural engineer and STAR volunteer.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced by the conflict that began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

And the conflict has not spared animals like Betty, a brown-haired mutt who lost a leg after sustaining a bullet wound.

The shelter, in Sahnaya, 14 kilometres (nine miles) southwest of Damascus, is home to dogs and cats, but also more exotic animal victims of the conflict, including turtles and colourful birds.

Many are being treated for war wounds or animal abuse, which volunteers say has increased since the conflict began, while others were left behind by owners fleeing violence around Syria’s capital.

German shepherds and shaggy-haired terriers prance excitedly as STAR staff members stroll into the yard, the dogs jumping up on their hind legs to reach the faces of young volunteers.

Founded in May 2016, STAR is treating 110 animals in its infirmary, including Noisy, a frail blind cat, and Sweetie, a chocolate-brown dog who was shot in the back.

Other pets have undergone amputations, are partially paralysed, or are recovering from burns or knife wounds with the help of STAR’s 11 volunteers.

– No scraps for strays –

More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced by war, with nearly five million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

“People who were forced to flee didn’t take their pets with them,” says Hanadi al-Mutahasseb, STAR’s 38-year-old founder.

Those animals left behind face starvation, possible injury by shells or gunfire, or abuse.

“In this war, everyone who carries weapons fires on animals that bother them, so more animals need support,” Mutahasseb says.

Every day, STAR receives dozens of Facebook messages from concerned citizens about wounded or abandoned animals, and its own network of volunteers brings in injured pets found wandering the streets.

Syria’s conflict has ravaged the country’s infrastructure and economy, leading to a devalued pound and high unemployment.

That means the discarded scraps that many strays used to survive on are often no longer available, with Syrians using every last bit of food they can.

The dire economic situation — and the difficulty of obtaining visas to leave — have affected both Syria’s citizens and its animals.

Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer Hayat reports.

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Category: Arab uprising

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