A vet’s perspective on helping Lebanon dogs, cats

Lebanon vet

The following is a guest blog from Dr. David Chico, the veterinarian who travelled to Lebanon with an International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) team last month to treat and eventually rescue a number of dogs and cats. He detailed his experience helping animals rescued by Animals Lebanon in a journal format here.--JG

September 19, 2016

The IFAW team spent the first day in Beirut examining several of the animals being fostered by various people for Animals Lebanon. Much thanks to Dr. Ali Hameade for the use of his clinic! Many of the cats examined were victims of trauma or untreated infections. Several of the kittens examined had already lost a limb or parts of a limb because of injuries sustained from living on the street. They all seemed to be healing well and adjusting to life with their disability. We saw also several cats that were visually impaired or blind due to untreated eye infections. We examined one kitten with a fused ankle that could not use its rear leg and it was scheduled for an amputation. We also examined a dog that was having difficulty walking and was placed with a foster. It was found that the dog had a fractured pelvis and will hopefully heal with cage rest and pain management. One of the saddest cases was a black and white kitten that suffered head trauma when it and its littermates were purposely run over.

This kitten was the sole survivor and although it had a head tilt and a tremor, it was improving and getting stronger by the day.

September 20, 2016

The IFAW team spent the day examining the resident cats at Animals Lebanon. Although all the cats are available to be adopted, Animals Lebanon has many animals that never find a permanent home either because of behavioral or health issues. Thankfully, they live in beautiful quarters at the Animals Lebanon offices. Several of the cat rooms have outdoor balconies for fresh air. Overall, it is an impressive space.

We administered medication to control intestinal parasites, and applied products for flea control. Unfortunately, ringworm seems to be a common problem and Animals Lebanon had several young, somewhat feral cats that needed to be dipped in Lime-Sulfur because they failed to respond to oral medication. The dipping process was definitely the messiest and most difficult challenge of the day and all cats except for two were dipped.

We also discussed protocols to help control future ringworm problems so hopefully these young cats can be adopted more quickly instead of spending time in the shelter undergoing weeks of treatment.

That day, we were also joined by Dr-MK Shaleh and Bishr Adi who came over from Damascus, Syria to learn and assist us.

September 21, 2016

Day 3 in Beirut was a busy one. We held a spay/neuter clinic for the animals at, or fostered by, Animals Lebanon. Again, much thanks to Dr. Ali Hameade and his staff for the use of the clinic and their assistance. We spayed and neutered approximately 20 cats. We continued to see appointments when not performing surgery. One of the appointments was a follow-up on a dog that was recovering from surgery to repair fractures of both front legs. Two other kittens were brought in directly from the street. One was a sweet, orange, four-month-old female that was born without eyes, and amazingly enough had been able to survive in that condition on the street. The other kitten brought in was underweight and filthy. Both were examined, dewormed, treated for fleas and sent off to foster homes. We ended the day with a visit to another part of the city to care for nine cats fostered by a family for Animals Lebanon.

It was a pleasure to work with my Syrian colleague, Dr-MK Shaleh who continued to amaze me with his intelligence and skill. He has no physical clinic in Damascus and travels to people’s homes on public transportation with his supplies to treat patients and perform surgeries, including complicated orthopedic procedures. His desire to learn and increase his knowledge and skills was neverending and it was interesting to share information and learn new techniques. I know I ended up learning as much from him as he did from me.

My IFAW teammates, Jennifer Gardner and Diane Treadwell, are fantastic. Intelligent, compassionate and fun to work with despite the circumstances. One of the best parts about these deployments is meeting IFAW staff and volunteers and quickly forming a cohesive team that gets the job done effectively and efficiently and leaves you feeling like you have known each other forever.

Maggie Shaarawi and Jason Weir of Animals Lebanon are incredible people. Maggie founded the organization after the war in 2006 to care for animals that were left behind when people fled. She works tirelessly on behalf of animals despite having another full-time job and never seems to turn down a request for help. Her husband Jason works to enact animal welfare legislation and to stop exotic animal trafficking and has a particular interest in chimpanzee conservation. Maggie, Jason and the rest of the volunteers have been generous, welcoming and kind and have added tremendously to this experience.

September 22, 2016

Day 4 was spent visiting another area of the country to check on a group of animals that Animals Lebanon was concerned about and to bring some much needed food to them. It is always difficult to see animals in less than desirable circumstances but it is gratifying to know that there are people working on their behalf to improve their care and well-being.

September 23, 2016

Day five was spent doing spays and neuters, microchipping, vaccinating and getting some special needs animals ready for transport from Beirut to the US for placement. These included the blind orange kitten and two kittens that had lost a limb because of trauma. The volunteers of Animals Lebanon are excited that these animals are going to new homes but sad they are leaving because they are so attached to them and have put so much effort into caring for them.

We had dinner with the President of Animals Lebanon, Lana El-Khalid. It was a pleasure speaking with yet another individual passionate about animal welfare and animal rights committed to making a positive change through her actions, legislative proposals and desire to improve the lives of all animals.

I didn’t know what to expect when I left for this volunteer experience. What I discovered is that the people of Beirut, regardless of religious or other affiliation are warm, kind, caring and generous beyond belief. The staff and volunteers of Animals Lebanon are incredible people with a passion for animal welfare.

I came to help but feel like I gained much more than I gave.


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy