295 Dogs and Cats Airlifted Out of Beirut

295 dogs and cats from war-torn Beirut are now in the United States being treated and awaiting new homes, thanks to the rescue work of Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) and the continued care of Best Friends Animal Society.

To date, 295 dogs and cats have been evacuated from Beirut, Lebanon, en route to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah. Since bombing began several weeks ago, animals in Beirut have been left at the mercy of the region's depleted resources.

Wounded and hungry zoo animals are left untended and unfed; pets and strays alike wander the streets scared, hungry, and displaced. Pet owners who would like to do something for their animals are either unable or have become unwilling to devote concern for animals while human life is so fiercely threatened.

Animals are left solely in the hands of Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rescue organization and the only humane society in Lebanon. BETA, a small group, not affiliated with PETA in any way, of mostly young women, has been traveling into this war zone since the outset of the crisis to rescue and treat these animals.

The main goal for the Beirut animal rescue is to get animals out of the region and into good adoptive families in the United States. This can't be accomplished by an on site rescue group alone, which is where the commendable work of Best Friends Animal Society comes in.

Best Friends Animal Society is a non-profit organization, founded in the early 1980's, that works primarily with humane groups across the United States in the attempt to eliminate the problem of homeless pets. They help to provide neighborhoods, communities, and cities with spay/neuter programs as well as aiding in fostering, adoption, and sheltering for animals.

The necessity of organizations like Best Friends can easily be missed when the problem is seen at a local or personal level, but disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Lebanon would not be surmountable without them. In fact, Katrina helped to prepare Best Friends for Beirut. The experience not only fine-tuned Best Friends' Rapid Response Team but also launched the Best Friends Network on a grand scale, bringing over 6,000 animals out of the disaster and into new homes and families.

Best Friends took up an alliance with BETA shortly after the war began between Israel and Hezbollah, and in the time of their brief involvement they have helped to rescue 295 dogs and cats.

I spoke with Michael Mountain, President of Best Friends Animal Society, about the group's contributions toward the rescue efforts and outlook on the situation. BETA's three area shelters were struck in the bombings and the animals were subsequently evacuated. One of them took a direct hit and the dogs and cats were moved to a local pig farm for temporary treatment and occupancy.

"The whole country is in chaos, so what we have offered to do basically is to bring them all over here and put them in good new homes here which will enable the BETA people to rescue some more and cope with those at their shelter without having to look after all 300 of these long term" Mountain said.

Best Friends has not only taken on all of the logistical concerns that BETA doesn't have the resources to cover for these roughly 300 animals: water, food, transportation, and money; but they have also had staff and volunteers on the ground helping out at shelters outside Beirut. Best Friends' work has only just begun once they get the animals out of Beirut, from there they begin the work of re-instilling these animals' trust and healing their wounds.

"…We've already had lots of adoption offers. These orphaned pets will be coming to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for complete health and behavior evaluations, and then they'll be off to their new homes, Mountain stated in a recent press release.

For anyone who wants to help with Best Friends' efforts, money and good adoptive families are still much needed, so check out their website.

If you have space in your home for one of these little guys, you would be doing a world of good.