The Plight of Pets Living in War ZonesPublished July 21, 2010
A deep feeling of helplessness shrouded me like a black cloud when I ran across an article in our local newspaper, The Orlando News Journal. The headline read, "Baghdad kills 58,000 dogs in 3 months". Just the opening paragraph set my teeth on edge, in which the Baghdad-based reporter wrote, "Teams of veterinarians and police shooters have killed some 38,000 stray dogs in and around the Iraqi capital over the past three months as part of a campaign to curb an increasing number of strays blamed for attacks on residents." This operation was announced in late 2009, but only appropriated the dollars in April to begin launching the project. It is indeed difficult for us to grasp the magnitude of starvation, death and despair which people must endure in periods of conflict. But due to the overwhelming degree of homelessness and poverty to which people are subjected, thousands of innocent, frightened and neglected animals suffer in silence as well. What makes this canine slaughter so ironic is that due to the recent improvement in some of the daily living conditions of Baghdad residents, with the return of open- air markets food being more accessible and dogs are less likely to starve. Subsequently this has caused an increase in the size of litters being born, according to officials with the provincial veterinary directorate. Provincial officials estimate that there are now presently approximately 1.25 million stray dogs in the area; however, the numbers of attacks on humans by packs of stray dogs were not available this week. But there are some rays of sunshine for the luckier animals caught in the ravages of war. Organizations such as Operation Baghdad Pups, which began in September 2007 - soon after SPCA International received an email from a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq who had befriended a dog from the Middle East - are helping. The soldier longed to adopt the dog and bring him to the United States at the end of his deployment. But frustrating military regulations prohibit troops from caring for a war-zone animal or using military resources to transport a dog back home. Fortunately Operation Baghdad Pups now is not only providing necessary veterinary care to the dogs that have become soldiers' beloved pets - which heightens morale - but also helps coordinate the complicated red tape by facilitating the process of reuniting these dogs with service men and women back in the United States. In Afghanistan, large numbers animals are also separated from their owners and become homeless as well. Three Marines have started a project to bring home the many kittens they have taken under their wing while stationed in Afghanistan. With the assistance of Noward Dogs Rescue, along with donations from cat lovers, two adorable kittens have already been shipped back to the U.S. So let's show our gratitude to these outstanding organizations and service men and women who do so much for the dogs and cats of war. Tell them how you feel by leaving a comment. Opening photo via Flickr user DVIDSHUB. Subsequent photos via Operation Baghdad Pups.