Kinship Circle
Action List
Action Alerts  |  Email List  |  Fact Sheets  |  Store  |  About Us  |  Updates  |  Victories  |  Your Alerts  |  Linksspacer
spacerDisaster Aid  |  Donate  |  Volunteer  |  Columns & Articles  |  Ad Designs  |  Stanley  |  Mission  |  Home

Animals - Unseen Collateral Damage
By Brenda Shoss, 6/23/07

War devastates. We grieve for soldiers lost and the involuntary destruction of civilian life. But headlines rarely publicize war's other collateral damage.

Animals, crimeless and naive, dodge mortars, grenades, and armored combat vehicles. Their lives explode in a flurry of desertion, starvation, injury and death.

A month into last summer's Israeli-Hezbollah war, bombs rain over Beirut's southern suburbs. Israel's military hopes to defuse Hezbollah's command post, so Lebanese officials can assert autonomy along the border. Meanwhile, Hezbollah launches rocket strikes inside Haifa and northern Israel.

Helena Hesayne, a Beirut born architect, has little patience for the politics behind battle. Her mission is clear: To rescue animals abandoned in Lebanon's exodus of one million people. In late July 2006,

Hesayne and three others from Beirut For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (BETA) navigate smoldering rubble in a small convertible. Israeli soldiers eye their car full of dog and cat food.

Hesayne displays BETA's accreditation papers. She has no fear, only stark resolve to retrieve four cats and one puppy seen locked inside a pet shop. "These animals are banging against the glass door, trying to get out. They are without food and water. I don't know how long," Hesayne recounts.

The women persuade another storeowner to unlock the pet shop for them. They are without crates, so they ferry animals toward their car under a downpour of bombs. "The entire time, this tiny puppy just licks our faces. It is the most amazing thing," Hesayne says.

LEFT PHOTO: 6/4/07, from BETA Team, — More clashes between our military and armed groups in northern Lebanon. Car bombs and hand grenades went off in Beirut. The first bomb exploded very close to one of our cat shelters in Ashrafieh area... There is daily fear that another massive civil war breaks out... The horror of the July 2006 war would be nothing compared to a civil war... In the end it's the innocents and the animals who suffer most.

RIGHT PHOTO: 8/5/06, — BETA continues to rescue animals in the war zone. This little kitten, Louli, who has found a new home!

A Brutal Landscape
At the onset of conflict in Lebanon, citizens and foreigners fled. Canadian, British and American evacuation protocols banned companion animals. In the chaos, evacuees released animals into the streets or confined them in buildings. BETA believes thousands of companion animals were discarded.

It is a familiar scenario. War casts companion, wild, zoo and farm animals into the shadows, terrified and hungry, with no sense of what the deafening noise means. Unlike people, animals do not intellectually grasp their circumstances.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq ravaged Baghdad's zoo, killing all but 80 of 400 animals. Bombings stranded survivors without food, water, or wound care until U.S. military veterinarians interceded with mobile clinics. Some kind-hearted U.S. troops even shared their ration packs with zoo animals, livestock, horses, donkeys, cats and dogs.

By the time BETA reached a zoo south of Beirut in Tyre, its emaciated inhabitants could barely move. "People fleeing think of animals as possessions, like cars," Hesayne observes. "We leave the car. We leave the animals." BETA confiscated several baboons, monkeys, and one macaque from another municipal zoo and transported them to a sanctuary in Wales.

On July 18, 2006, two bombs swept over BETA's former shelter at the border of the Hezbollah camp and Green Line. Shrapnel lodged between bars inside one dog's cage. Though animals and people escaped injury, the dogs sustained psychological scars.

One friendly golden retriever "flipped out" after the explosions, Hesayne says. "The next day, he bit my arm. Since the bombing he may randomly attack or bite." BETA's other dogs panic each time a plane engine roars overhead.

PHOTO: 1/4/07 — Lt. Col. Neil Ahle (left), Multinational Division-Baghdad veterinary officer, gives a lamb a dose of wormer at a veterinary operation in Al-Taraq, Iraq, as a shepherd holds the lamb. The operation treated about 100 animals for worms and gave vaccinations and vitamin injections.

LEFT PHOTOS: 4/25/03 — Sick animals in Iraq to be rescued by vets • A lion rests in Baghdad zoo

RIGHT PHOTOS: 12/13/06, from Shirley McGreal, International Primate Protection League, — Several baboons and vervet monkeys, and one macaque, left stranded in Beirut by the civil war and cared for by the Lebanese group BETA are now safely at the Cef-yr-erw sanctuary in Wales.

A Culture Of Cruelty
War plainly leaves innocents in the line of fire. It can also breed an impulsive culture of cruelty. As infrastructure crumbles — with the paralysis of roads, bridges, ports, communication, water and power sources — some aim their unrest at animals.

In 2007, videos of U.S. soldiers engaged in animal abuse circulated the Internet. Unsettling footage from a CD found in Baghdad's Green Zone revealed several servicemen hurling rocks at a dog with a spinal deformity. As the dog wailed, one man laughed, "That is the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life." Another suggested they "go over and kill it."

spacer PHOTO/VIDEO — Soldiers taunt crippled dog in Iraq:
E-activism campaign to urge the U.S. Department of Defense to
improve the lives of animals in Iraq:
Video 2: US Soldier shoots dog with M203 training round:

Indiscriminate abuse stems from the illogical premise that animals matter less during war and are easy scapegoats for violence.

For BETA's small volunteer staff, constant uprisings afford little respite from bloodshed. By June 2007, steady shelling and machine-gun fire had resumed in Lebanon as the army cornered Fatah Islam militants secluded in a Palestinian fugitive camp near Tripoli.

On June 4, car bombs and hand grenades discharged next to BETA's cat facility in the Ashrafieh neighborhood. BETA's dogs, situated in a former pig farm, were miles away from two cat shelters across the old Green Line. The group wants to consolidate cats and dogs in a new shelter before the hostility escalates.

In this volatile setting, people "go nuts and shoot animals right and left or poison them," Hesayne says. "We see puppies whose heads were banged against sidewalks or tied in electrical wire. If a dog barks, they just shoot the dog."

Chicagoan Joanne Greene can attest to animal cruelty during war. From January 15 to February 3, 2007, the Jewish American who runs a dog-walking business joined BETA to feed animals roaming Beirut's "hot zones." Though she'd volunteered for three animal relief missions in post-Katrina New Orleans, nothing prepared her for rescue in a combat zone.

Among Greene's eyewitness accounts, she depicts one particularly "horrid day in Beirut" when she and BETA's Joelle Kanaan respond to a call about three puppies tossed from a speeding car. The dogs are buried in a sack, their mouths tightly bound in electrical tape. Kanaan retrieves two, but the third pup disappears into the rain and mud.

"We leave, praying the tape around her mouth loosens to ease her suffering," Greene writes. "But the day is not over." As Kanaan and another BETA volunteer replenish food stations, they see a sanitation truck hoist a dumpster full of live cats. The drivers ignore the women's cries and pulverize the screaming cats.

spacer PHOTOS courtesy of BETA — A CNBC reporter rescued
this white kitten from a mostly bombed Palestinian camp
in north Lebanon. A few days later, the reporter found the
kitten's sibling and brought her to BETA too.

PHOTO: 1/15 to 2/3/07, from American rescuer in Beirut Joanne Greene — "Everyday snapshots: I'm not sure what's worse, the war or the average Beirut citizen who tortures, maims, and mistreats animals."

Lack Of Policy For Animals In War Zones
America's Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) contains no anti-cruelty clauses and defense leaders seldom penalize soldiers for animal torture. The military also advocates lethal rabies control to safeguard troops, despite proof that rigorous vaccination programs inhibit disease transmission more effectively than gratuitous dog slaughter.

The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and Humane Society International (HSI) want the U.S. Department of Defense to revitalize rules for animal cruelty and control, as well as permit soldier adoption of animals.

General Order 1-A (GO-1A) forbids soldiers to care for pets or mascots. For reasons unknown, the military lumps animal companionship under behavior "prejudicial to the maintenance of good order and discipline of all forces." Since 2005, security clampdowns along borders have blocked soldiers from transporting strays back to the states.

Well, some soldiers. The fiercely determined rely on Iraq's "canine underground railroad." HSUS gathers their stories as testament to the spirit of the human-animal bond.

During a 2004 offensive in Fallujah, Marines found a grubby, flea-infested puppy. With help from a reporter and the Helen Woodward Animal Center, Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman sent "Lava" from Jordan to California. In Kopelman's book, "From Baghdad, With Love," he details arrangements that led to Lava's homecoming.

Another army major saved skin-and-bones Bashur during his tour in Kirkuk, Iraq. The dog, now at home in Illinois, traveled 640 miles with a military convoy en route to Kuwait.

PHOTOS: 11/04, Jay Kopelman and Lava in Iraq • Escape from Iraq: U.S. Soldiers and Their Prohibited Pets, By Carly Ikuma — When Marines invaded Fallujah in November 2004, the last thing Lt. Col Jay Kopelman and the Marines of 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment expected to find was a tiny puppy in the rubble, wagging his tail... Kopelman's best-selling book, "From Baghdad, With Love" ...chronicles the events that eventually brought Lava to the U.S.

PHOTOS: ANIMAL FRIENDS IN IRAQ • Information and photos contributed by: SrA Thomas Vaught, US Air Force EOD — "Thomas was stationed in Baghdad for almost six months while serving in the United States Air Force. During his tour of duty he had the joy of encountering many native animals there... Thomas says most of these animals lived in the vicinity of his living quarters and were often seen lounging around."

A Home On Distant Shores
On September 25, 2006, 150 dogs and 145 cats flew from Beirut's International Airport to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. The Best Friends airlift freed an overwhelmed BETA to recover more displaced pets — like Nougat, a blue-eyed Labrador-Husky mix left for dead in a vehicle collision.

Nougat suffered a shattered jaw and maggot infestation over four days before anyone notified BETA. But emergency surgery saved Nougat, who is now prime pooch at her new Rhode Island home. BETA hopes to orchestrate more adoptions in the U.S.

If there is any light in war's storm on animals, it is the miracle of compassion without borders. In Iraq, citizens and members of the 1st Armored Division and V corps formed the Iraqi Animal Welfare Society. No significant humane organizations existed in Iraq prior to the war.

Sometimes, the miracle is the animal herself. The last nose Army Spc. Justin Rollins nuzzled — before roadside bombs took his life — belonged to a puppy. When the 22-year-old paratrooper's grieving family saw photos of him cuddling a white and brown-flecked mutt in Iraq, they campaigned to bring the dog home.

With the aid of Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., Hero journeyed about 6,000 miles to New Hampshire. "It was the last bit of happiness Justin had," Rollins' girlfriend Brittney Murray told reporters.

Animals like Hero can soften war's impact. Rescuing them from harm doesn't diminish human suffering. In fact, it makes us a bit more human.

Kinship Circle's column runs in The Healthy Planet. Ms. Shoss is also a contributing writer for The Animals Voice, Satya Magazine, VegNews, and other publications. To reprint this column, please request author permission at

spacer PHOTO: 3/25/07 — Tired from a long trip, Hero the dog sits with her new Newport, N.H., family, Skip and Rhonda Rollins and Brittney Murray, in the office of Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H. in Concord, N.H. Friday, May 25, 2007. Rollins' son, Army Spc. Justin Rollins, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq a day after adopting the pup. Hodes assisted in bringing the dog to the United States for Rollins' family. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

LEFT PHOTO: 9/24/06 — These are just a few of the cat carriers being readied for the big flight from Beirut to Best Friends on Monday September 25. There will be about 150 cats on the plane, and all lights are green for take-off.

MIDDLE PHOTO: 9/24/06 — After takeoff (from Beirut) the animals fly to Manchester, UK, for refueling; then to JFK for customs and refueling; and then to Las Vegas...

RIGHT PHOTO: 9/26/06 — Safa Hojeij, one of the founders of Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA), holds a dog named Ringo at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Courtesy: REUTERS/Steve Marcus (UNITED STATES)

PHOTOS courtesy of BETA: Nougat, a Labrador-Husky mix hit by a car and left for four days, SURVIVES. "Four days passed before anyone called BETA. Her former caretakers knew she'd been hit, but didn't care. Once we found her, our vet operated on Nougat until 1:00 a.m. Her entire jaw was shattered and maggots covered her mouth and head — but he saved her. Now called Bella Nougat, this lucky dog lives with Suzanne in Rhode Island. She flew to the states in April 2007."

1. Donate To Beirut For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals
With fundraising activities on hold during times of conflict, BETA desperately needs money to feed and vet animals, maintain shelters, arrange transports/adoptions, cover monthly expenses...

If interested in adopting war-rescued animals:
To volunteer for BETA:

Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) is a Lebanese Registered Charitable Organization (Charity # 205/AD). Through education and direct action, BETA rescues and rehomes stray and abused animals, while combating abusive pet shops and illegal trade in wildlife. We exist solely on the kindness of your adoptions, donations and assistance.

2. Contact U.S. Department of Defense officials and ask them to make regulatory changes regarding animals in war zones. Specifically, urge the DOD to institute these policies:
• Insert and enforce an anti-cruelty clause in the Universal Code of Military Justice.
• Utilize non-lethal vaccination programs to cope with rabies concerns in Iraq or other countries.
• Implement an adoption system that lets soldiers bring vetted pets back to the U.S. with them.


web comment form:

Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon • Washington, DC 20301-1000

Gordon R. England, Deputy Secretary of Defense
1010 Defense Pentagon • Washington, DC 20301-1010

Kenneth J. Krieg, Under Secretary of Defense
3010 Defense Pentagon • Washington, DC 20301-3010

David S. C. Chu, Under Secretary of Defense
4000 Defense Pentagon • Washington, DC 20301-4000

Eric S. Edelman, Under Secretary of Defense
2000 Defense Pentagon • Washington, DC 20301-2000

Tina Jonas, Under Secretary of Defense
1100 Defense Pentagon • Washington, DC 20301-1100

The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
9999 Joint Staff Pentagon • Washington, DC 20318-9999

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
9999 Joint Staff Pentagon • Washington, DC 20318-9999

Secretaries of the Armed Forces
Secretary of the Army: 101 Army Pentagon • Washington, DC 20310-0101

Secretary of the Navy: 1000 Navy Pentagon • Washington, DC 20350-1000

Secretary of the Air Force: 1670 Air Force Pentagon • Washington, DC 20330-1670

The Chiefs of Staff
Army Chief of Staff: 200 Army Pentagon • Washington, DC 20310-0200

Chief of Naval Operations: 2000 Navy Pentagon • Washington, DC 20350-2000

Air Force Chief of Staff: 1670 Air Force Pentagon • Washington, DC 20330-1670

Commandant of the Marine Corps
Headquarters USMC • 2 Navy Annex (CMC) • Washington, DC 20380-1775

At his link, the DOD answers the question, "Will the Department of Defense change
regulations and policies, as they pertain to animal abuse, vaccination and adoption of stray
animals in Iraq?"

If you believe DOD's response isn't good enough, be sure to send them comments!

PHOTOS courtesy of BETA: Named Bullet for surviving his hideous wound, this Canadian white shepherd was shot through his left eye as he played in a garden. In March 2007, a woman phoned BETA about an injured dog in her garden. She heard gunfire and ran outside believing her own dog had been shot. Instead, she found Bullet — bloody and limp near her unscathed dog. "I drove like a maniac to get this dog," recalls BETA's Helena Hesayne. "Although he's a white dog, he was completely red with blood when I first saw him. I thought he was dead. I carried him to my car and drove him straight to our vet."

"He was lucky. The bone of his eye deflected the bullet and it exited behind his ear. It did not penetrate his brain. We removed his eye and the bullet fragments. I kept Bullet at my place for a month and half. Now he is healthy and safe at BETA's shelter. I want to find him a home in the U.S. because with a missing eye, he'll never get adopted here. He's very sweet and nice."

LEFT & MIDDLE PHOTOS courtesy of BETA: Sugar and Spice, casualties of war, SURVIVE. These two girls were found alone and afraid at three months of age. They've thrived at BETA's shelter and are now very playful. RIGHT PHOTO courtesy of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: BETA rescues a stubborn kitten, "Trouble," trapped inside a car engine.

Action Alerts  |  Email List  |  Fact Sheets  |  Store  |  About Us  |  Updates  |  Victories  |  Your Alerts  |  Links
spacerDisaster Aid  |  Donate  |  Volunteer  |  Columns & Articles  |  Ad Designs  |  Stanley  |  Mission  |  Home