The catastrophic explosions in Beirut earlier this month claimed the lives of more than 170 people and left upwards of 6,000 injured. 

As humanitarian aid pours in from around the world, local shelter Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) is attending to the many dogs and cats also impacted by the crisis. 

“We are working urgently to help animals inside the blast zone,” says BETA founder Helena Husseini, who has entered the restricted area several times. “But it’s extremely challenging.”

A Unique Rescue Effort

Photo of the aftermath of Beirut explosion

Alex Gakos / Shutterstock.com

On August 4, a warehouse explosion in Beirut’s port district sparked a massive fire and triggered a second, deadlier blast. The surrounding neighborhoods were left devastated, with many buildings flattened.

In addition to owned pets, the area is home to a large population of stray dogs and cats. Animals who survived the explosions now face hunger in the deserted area, as residents who previously fed them have been evacuated.

Stray puppy in Beirut

Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA)

“We have thousands of strays on the streets in Beirut, located mostly in areas where they can get access to food, such as the port,” says Husseini. “These animals were at risk before, and are even more vulnerable now.”

Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have further complicated rescue efforts, adds Husseini.

‘Pets Are Family’

As officials work to stabilize the area, Husseini and her volunteers are feeding the animals, as well as attempting to find missing pets who ran from their homes during the chaos.  

Although tragedies continue to be uncovered in the blast zone, there are also uplifting moments.  

‘There are many stories about animals being reunited with their guardians, and we see the joy in their faces,” says Husseini.

Rescue worker feeding stray dogs in Beirut

Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA)

Additionally, the disaster has shed light on the plight of Beirut’s street dogs, who have long been feared and mistreated, says Husseini.

“Pets are family, and I’m glad that more people are realizing that,” she says. “It’s uplifting to see the workers at the port really caring for the stray population and worrying about them.”

Help From Abroad

Puppies in need following Beirut explosion

Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA)

Now more than ever, BETA needs help to improve the lives of Beirut’s animals. 

Before the blast, Husseini and her team were in the process of building a new shelter, which had been delayed by the pandemic and economic instability. In addition to food and emergency care, they hope to make a lasting impact by providing the port district strays with vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries.

Recently, SPCA International committed $20,000 to assist with BETA’s lifesaving work.

“SPCA International is proud to support BETA’s efforts,” says Meredith Ayan, executive director of SPCA International. “This work is so crucial, and we know that BETA will be there making sure animals are as safe and healthy as possible, now and for the long term.”

Private donations are also accepted via BETA’s official website.

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