As people fled war zones in Syria to save their lives, they often had no other choice but to leave their pets behind. Without their primary caretakers, cats and dogs ended up on the street, abandoned or abused. Spurred by the dire situation, a brave group of pet lovers has decided to embark on a mission and rescue the animals lost in the chaos.
As the war worsened in 2013 and 2014, Rawaa Kilani, an animal activist from Damascus, joined concerned animal lovers in Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries and set up Cat Connect, a charity that works to reunite animals with their Syrian owners. When that’s not possible, pets and as well as strays are handed over to foster owners. It’s the only rescue effort of its kind in the city.
Holding their mission close to their hearts, Kilani and her team often don’t hesitate to risk their own lives to relocate abandoned cats and dogs, sometimes diving into active conflict areas to retrieve the animals.
After being rescued, the pets are flown as cargo to various locations in Europe, and sometimes North America, the costs sometimes running into more than $1000 per animal – all funded through donations.
The mission to give a better life to animals impacted by war has inspired action in other parts of the world too. In Afghanistan, for instance, soldiers have set up nonprofit and crowdfunding efforts to bring rescued street dogs and cats to the US and the UK.
What makes this cause particularly inspiring is the fact that it’s an effort that comes full circle. Pets can help people, particularly children, deal with the psychological trauma brought on by war and displacement.