With car bombs and unsettling violence in nearby Middle Eastern countries, life is tough for all creatures in Lebanon. One organization is battling to save abused and neglected dogs and other animals in very difficult circumstances.
“All animals suffer here as there are no enforceable welfare laws or regulations,” says Jason Mier, executive director of rescue organization Animals Lebanon, which just turned five. “Animals are often seen as temporary, instead of a lifetime commitment, so they can be abandoned at whim for essentially any reason. There is also dog fighting, which is still prominent in some regions of the country; no government programs for stray animal management; and dogs are occasionally shot or poisoned.”
But Mier is keen to emphasize that Lebanese people are not unkind to animals. “Life is not easy for many people here,” he says. “Unemployment, minimum wage that was only recently increased to $500 per month, political instability, and on and on. It can be frustrating at times but it is understandable that people’s compassion can only extend so far. I have also met people who have nothing and go out of their way to assist animals.”
Animals Lebanon was started by local people, and the majority of donors are Lebanese, but there are limits in what many local people can do to care for animals. Abed, a building manager in Beirut, built a makeshift wheelchair for his dog, Lala, after she was hit by a car and he couldn’t afford the $700 operation to mend her hind legs. She was reported to the rescue group, and when Mier first saw her she had painful ulcers and blisters on her body where it rubbed against the wheelchair. “Abed asked for our help,” says Mier. “We rushed Lala to the vet who said she has little chance of walking again. We could treat her wounds but would need to get her to a place that could give her the specialized care she needed.”
After a Facebook campaign to help Lala, Animals Lebanon raised enough money to send her to the U.S., where she got medical care from a rescue group that helps abused, neglected and disabled dogs, called HANDDS to the Rescue. Thanks to the love and treatment (hydro-therapy really helped) she received there, last month Lala was able to stand on her hind legs for the first time.
Another heart-warming success story from Animals Lebanon is that of Hazel and Aiden, who were in a terrible state when they were found living rough in an empty basement. The rescue group’s care has seen the animals transformed from skinny, mange-ridden wretches to healthy, glossy-furred friendly pets. It took workers four days to catch Hazel and Aiden and then four months to heal their physical injuries and diseases.
Last month they were flown to the U.S. to be homed near Chicago with the help of U.S. Golden Retriever rescue group As Good As Gold and dog care provider Hightails Hideaway. “When I first spotted Hazel she looked to me like a ghost, completely bald with sores, not able to walk simply as she couldn’t stop itching,” said Maggie Shaarawi, vice president of Animals Lebanon. “I felt responsible towards them to get them through this and show them that there is no more suffering.”
Hazel’s and Aiden’s happy faces and waggy tails show what a difference Animals Lebanon make with the help of dedicated volunteers and generous donations. They prove that even from the most desperate of situations, love and nuture can bring life back from the edge of hopelessness.
See Hazel’s and Aiden’s miraculous transformation here:
Read more by Anna Leach and about international rescue groups:
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