In April 2019 War Paws was approached by Animals of Kurdistan, a local group of animal welfare advocates in Iraq and asked if we would be willing to help them with their animal shelter project. Running a shelter had long been something we wanted to do but it was not something we could undertake alone so after many phone calls and emails we set up a trip to Iraq in July 2019 so we could meet with Ashti and Dunya, the founders of Animals of Kurdistan and see how we could help.
Louise headed out to Iraq ready to get stuck in and do all she could to help AOK get the shelter up and running but it was not going to be an easy task. Despite not even being half built there were already around 70 dogs in residence, many of them disabled and we were heartbroken to see that the ground was nothing more than dirt and the kennels were less than functional. At this point there was no question that we were going to get involved and Louise, Ashti and Dunya set to work on a plan to finish building the shelter.
Louise spent the rest of the trip working from 7am til 7pm every day alongside the shelter staff, a new dog food recipe was formulated, sick and injured animals were tended to and the area cleared up as best we could. Louise left a week later completely exhausted but very focussed on finding enough funding to be able to lay concrete and upgrade the kennels as well as set up a functional vet clinic on site.
By September 2019 we had been fortunate enough to secure funding by way of a grant kindly awarded to us by The Marchig Trust/Help Animals International. The grant was awarded to enable us to get the entire shelter area concreted and the kennels upgraded and expanded.
October 2019 saw us move into the next phase of the project…..Setting up a functional vet clinic on site. Louise once again travelled to Iraq with Dr Ross Neethling armed with medical supplies and equipment and a plan to spay and neuter as many of the dogs as possible. Ashti, Dunya and the rest of the AOK staff and volunteers had spent hours cleaning out an old converted shipping container, a local vet kindly allowed us to borrow and operating table and within 48 hours of arrival we had managed to get the clinic up and running and were doing our first surgeries and training Anna, a Canadian Expat living in Erbil to be our Vet Assistant.
Shortly before we left Iraq in October we were lucky enough to meet Dr Nadia, a Russian vet who had kindly agreed to come to Iraq for a few months and work at the shelter so we left happy in the knowledge that the spaying and neutering would be able to continue.
Dr Nadia left us in Dec 2019 to go home to Russia but thankfully with our amazing vet assistant Anna we were able to keep the vet clinic up and running although we were not able to perform any surgeries.
Louise, Dr Ross and volunteer Vet Nurse Sarah visited the shelter again in February 2020 and were delighted to see just how much things had progressed. The dogs were all very happy, the staff were happy and things were running well. The team quickly put away all the medical supplies we had taken out with us and once again spays and neuter surgeries commenced.
March 2020 saw the arrival of Dr Majd Shah in Erbil. Dr Majd had fled Syria and moved to Iraq in the hope of being able to have a better life. He soon heard about the shelter and before long he was there every day volunteering his services and showing us we could not be without him. Of course, funding was a big problem but with a donation doubling campaign from SPCAI were able to raise enough funds to offer him a full time position in May 2020.
The shelter is supported entirely on donations, without your donations the shelter would not survive and the dogs would have nowhere to go, many of them are disabled and do not have the skills to survive the harsh streets of Iraq. Please consider a small donation today to help us keep the shelter open.