Gaza’s Only Animal Shelter Fights to Protect Hundreds of Dogs Amidst War
Gaza, October 2023 – As the conflict between Israel and Gaza intensifies, there’s a silent group suffering amidst the chaos: the animals. Sulala Animal Rescue, the only animal sanctuary in Gaza, is desperately trying to safeguard its residents, including many disabled animals maimed by war.
Tending to over 400 dogs and 130 cats within its shelter and foster homes, and countless others on the streets, the dedication of the shelter is evident. Currently, the harrowing visuals of smoke from shelling, coupled with the deafening blasts, are all too present from the shelter’s location, plunging its animal residents into relentless fear.
When a directive came for Gaza’s residents to evacuate a staggering 1 million people within a day’s span, the shelter’s team bravely sprang into action. Facing immense peril, they ensured both pets and their owners were ushered to safety. Regardless of the looming threats, the committed rescuers remain undeterred, steadfast in their mission to shield animals from the devastating consequences of war.
The Conflict Has Posed Numerous Challenges
The shelter, unlike the typical Western idea of an enclosed space, is an open ground where animals roam freely in a dusty area. Spread across nearly five acres, the shelter provides a semblance of freedom and safehaven for the animals, but the ongoing conflict has posed numerous challenges. The bombings have left the dogs terrified, leading them to break the fences for a wider roaming area, presumably to feel less confined and thereby less scared.
Mealtime at the Shelter
At mealtime, the atmosphere at the shelter takes on a palpable urgency. The rescuers pour copious amounts of food into vast troughs, creating a symphony of clinking sounds that echo across the grounds. Almost immediately, the dogs, recognizing the familiar signal, come bounding with an eagerness borne from both hunger and anticipation. You can see what mealtime is like in the video below.
Larger, more dominant dogs often jostle their way to the front, staking their claim, while smaller and more submissive ones wait for an opportune moment. The caregivers vigilantly monitor these feedings, ensuring that every animal gets its share, but the inherent wildness of the situation reflects the challenging circumstances they operate under. This daily ritual, while a testament to the animals’ resilience, also underscores the shelter’s pressing need for resources and support.
The above video show dogs running to eat & the shelter workers pouring food into the communal eating area
Shelter Workers Risking Their Lives To Ensure Animal Safety
In a series of updates, the shelter shared its daily challenges and the measures taken to protect its inhabitants. On October 9th, they transferred disabled dogs – Sasha, Billie, Dungul, among others, to a safer location. These dogs, vulnerable due to their conditions, would not have survived on the streets. Remarkably, despite the turmoil, more dogs have been seeking refuge at the shelter, possibly sensing it as a place of care and safety.
One of the most heart-rending updates came from Saeed, a caregiver, who managed to evacuate himself, his family, and all 120 cats to a safer location in Nuseirat. Amidst the distressing sight of thousands relocating south with their belongings, Saeed emphasized the importance of amplifying the voices of the animals.
Supplies Like Food, Water & Electricity Are Scarce
However, the challenges keep mounting. With electricity, water, and internet cut off, the shelter feels isolated from the world. Essential supplies like food and water are scarce, but the resilience of the shelter’s team shines through. They’ve ensured that the animals are fed, even making treacherous trips amidst bombings to secure food supplies. The scarcity of fuel has further compounded their challenges, making every trip to the shelter a calculated risk.
In a particularly poignant incident, a local resident sought the shelter’s help to save his dogs, which he hadn’t seen for three days. Despite the risks, the team assisted him, ensuring the dogs were safe and well-fed.
Innovation Amidst Adversity: Sulala’s Ingenious Solutions for Disabled Pets
The shelter currently cares for a significant number of disabled animals, with 20+ dogs without legs (and counting), many of whom are paralyzed, and 20 cats that are either paralyzed or amputated.
But their disabilities don’t hold them back, thanks to the dedication of the shelter staff who make wheelchairs and prostetics out of children’s toys. Given the scarcity of specialized medical centers for animals in Gaza and the region’s limited prosthesis centers, the innovative solutions of Sulala Animal Rescue Society underscore the spirit of resilience and resourcefulness in challenging times.
A heartwarming example is Lucy, a dog whose hind legs were paralyzed due to a car accident. The shelter’s team, with the help of volunteers, fitted Lucy with a harness attached to a metal frame with rainbow-colored rubber wheels from a discarded children’s bike. This makeshift wheelchair allows Lucy to move freely, with her paralyzed legs comfortably resting above the frame.
Unfortunately, the war has left scars on the shelter. Ringo, a dog rescued in April 2021, who had previously endured the trauma of the May 2021 war, had to be displaced again due to the current conflict. The shelter’s team remains committed to their cause, moving the animals to safer locations as they run out of essential supplies.
With the Gaza Strip entirely cut off, the shelter is reliant on donations to continue its operations. They urge well-wishers worldwide to spread their message and aid in any possible way.
For more updates and to support the shelter, visit their official Instagram page: Sulala Animal Rescue.