the charities working to reunite refugees with their pets
Last Updated : GMT 06:49:16
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Last Updated : GMT 06:49:16
Arab Today, arab today

The charities working to reunite refugees with their pets

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Arab Today, arab today The charities working to reunite refugees with their pets

A Syrian woman with her cat, which she brought with her from Syria
Damascus - Arab Today

Long before she left Syria for the Netherlands a year ago, Damascene Rawaa Kilani has been on a one-women mission to save Syria’s pets from the horrors of war.
It was two years ago in Daraya, a once-besieged and contested suburb of Syria’s capital, that she found herself surrounded by fierce fighting, diving headlong into one of her most dangerous assignments: saving an injured dog’s life.
"I always take calls from people to help animals because I’m the only person doing this, and that day there was a dog stuck in the middle of the fighting," she says. "So, I drove out there and some soldiers helped me take the dog from a destroyed building," she says nonchalantly, adding how she regularly passed through checkpoints when ferrying pets from Syria to Lebanon, something she did for many years when working in Syria for a trading and contracting company.
"It was not easy to pass by checkpoints, I had to make an argument most of the time, but sometimes I could get through with nice talk," she says.
"I wasn’t scared. I don’t think about it."
Yorkshire terriers, husky puppies, cocker spaniels and even songbirds have landed on Greek beaches, been seen hanging around makeshift camps in the Balkans or carried underarm by refugees marching north on the rural pathways of central Europe.
As recently as last month, Syrian Tariq Kamci and his Persian cat embarked from western Turkey in the freezing wind with the dream of beginning a new life somewhere, anywhere in Europe.
But their hopes were soon dashed. They and 61 others from Syria and Tunisia were detained by the Turkish coastguard and brought back to Çesme. Kamci would be processed by the police and probably released. No such procedure exists for his cat.
For some among the millions of Syrians who’ve fled war, bringing their favourite pet has helped cope with the trauma of a dangerous odyssey. Many know that once they leave their homeland with little more than the contents of a suitcase to link them to their past lives, they’ll probably never see their homes, their neighbours or their schools again.
Many, however, simply don’t have the means to carry their pets, and that is where Kilani, who runs the nonprofit organisation Cat Connect, and a team of volunteers and charities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe have stepped in.
For Bettina Marie Schneider of the charity Frieden für Pfoten (Peace for Paws), the motivation to help came about after seeing photos of cats and dogs with beleaguered refugees on the beaches of Greece. "We decided to start a Facebook group where we would collect anything that might be helpful for refugees who want to take their pets with them," she says. "We try to provide information about necessary vaccinations, country regulations, where refugees would find support and maybe also foster homes, on the way."
However, even the animals that manage to reach the relative safety of Europe are still at risk. According to Schneider, a dog taken from an elderly Syrian couple in Sweden was put to death by the authorities, even though it had been vaccinated for the rabies virus. At least one cat brought from Syria to Europe has been abused and left for dead by its foster hosts.
"It is almost impossible to find figures for the number of refugees bringing pets with them because many who do so successfully do so secretly," says Schneider. "The official restrictions are so hard to master, we need many months to make it happen legally and it costs huge amounts of money [to bring pets to Europe]."

Source: The National

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