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Volunteers move pets to safety in Lebanon
26 July 2006
by Donna Abu Nasr (AP)

A Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) volunteer plays with a dog at a farm in Monteverde, 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, 25 July 2006, after they were moved from a shelter near a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs because they were traumatized by the Israeli shelling. The howls of 133 canine refugees from Israeli attacks on Beirut echoed through the pine-and oak-covered hills above the Lebanese capital Tuesday. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)A Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) volunteer plays with a dog at a farm in Monteverde, 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, 25 July 2006, after they were moved from a shelter near a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs because they were traumatized by the Israeli shelling. The howls of 133 canine refugees from Israeli attacks on Beirut echoed through the pine-and oak-covered hills above the Lebanese capital Tuesday. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Monteverde, Lebanon: The howls of 133 canine refugees echoed Tuesday through the pine-and-oak-covered hills above the Lebanese capital, crowded into cages but safely away from airstrikes against Hezbollah strongholds in the south.

The dogs were moved by volunteers of the Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) from a shelter in Beirut's southern suburbs to an abandoned pig farm east of the capital. These pets might be considered lucky compared to animals left to fend for themselves by foreign and Lebanese owners fleeing the Israeli bombardment.

The U.S. Embassy and others told evacuees that pets would not be allowed on the ships and helicopters carrying them to safety.

"The embassies that evacuated their citizens from Lebanon made a mistake when they made no provisions for pets," activist Hania Jurdak said.

BETA is Lebanon's first animal welfare and rescue organization, established two years ago. The group rescues stray and abused animals and tries to find them new homes.

On Saturday, BETA made an appeal for donations on its web site "to get the animals through this period."

In Israel, volunteers were also trying to save animals abandoned by owners fleeing their homes in the north to escape Hezbollah rocket attacks.

"We took in about 200 animals, mainly dogs and cats," said Tamara More, general manager of the rescue organization Ahava.

She said volunteers are going into northern towns and cities to feed abandoned animals. There "are thousands of dogs and cats roaming the streets without anyone to care for them," More said.

When hostilities started on 12 July,  BETA had 113 dogs and about 100 cats at the shelter near a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut.

The dogs were moved to the hilltop farm in Monteverde, about 10 miles east of the capital, because they were traumatized by the shelling, said BETA co-founder Joelle el-Massih.

"They were stressed out and were suffering from diarrhea," said el-Massih. "We worried they would be hit."

Volunteers took the strays to the farm last week in minibuses or cars. El-Massih said the owner has put the farm at BETA's disposal until the violence ends.