DUBAI: Syria might not be the first place people think of when looking to adopt a stray dog or cat, but Dutch student Celine de Jong recently did just that and she could not be more pleased.
It all started with an internet search that led De Jong, who volunteers at an animal ambulance service, to the Facebook page of the Syrian Team for Animal Rescue.
Established five years ago, the nonprofit organization provides shelter for nearly 2,000 cats and dogs in southern Syria. Its Facebook page has more than 100,000 followers.
“They’re having a hard time in Syria, also the animals,” De Jong told Arab News from Assendelft, about 15 km northwest of Amsterdam.
“Star has a lot of cats and dogs that have been hit by cars or shot at. Many have missing legs. We have disabled cats in Holland, but not stray animals. I wanted to adopt a stray cat.”
De Jong contacted the Star team and this month her new pets — two-legged cats Zaina and Holly — arrived at their new home in the Netherlands.
Although the adoption process took almost six months to complete, as the animals had to have a rabies shot and a blood test, which then had to be approved by a laboratory in Europe, De Jong said it was worth the wait.
“You’re really saving their lives,” she said, adding that she hopes one day Zaina and Holly will be able to be fitted with prosthetic legs.
De Jong and her mother Petra traveled to Beirut to collect the animals, where they were taken after leaving Syria.
The pair also met representatives from Star and donated food, medicine and toys to help other sick animals.
The De Jongs are not the only foreign family to come to Star’s aid. Its founder Hanadi Al-Mouhtaseb said other animals once cared for by Star are now living in Belgium, Germany and the US. “They’re very cooperative, there’s great humanity,” she told Arab News of the foreign adopters.
Al-Mouhtaseb began looking after injured animals at her home before setting up an open-air shelter in the Sahnaya area outside Damascus. Today, Star is run by volunteers and funded by public donations, but it is not easy.
The shelter struggles to get the veterinary equipment and medication it needs to treat its animals, many of which have serious injuries when they arrive.
While the war and political unrest in Syria has made it difficult to get support for Star, Al-Mouhtaseb said she was also trying to educate people, especially children, about the need to care about animals and not abuse them.
“If you walk up to a child and tell them what they’re doing is bad, they say, ‘Does an animal feel anything anyway?’” she said. “But if there wasn’t all this harm, we wouldn’t need an association.”