Pets left behind in the North are focus of Israeli volunteers

YOKNE’AM, Israel, Aug. 15 (JTA) — When tens of thousands of Israelis fled their homes as Hezbollah rockets began raining down on northern Israel, they left behind not only hastily locked-up houses but, in many cases, their pets.

After days and weeks of being left to fend for themselves, many of the animals were found starving and dehydrated in the streets of northern towns and cities. Estimates put the number of animals in distress at about 8,000.

Three dogs were killed after a rocket hit the house in Kiryat Shmona where their owner had tied them up and left them. Some dogs were found wounded, their bodies riddled with shrapnel. Many others, terrified by the sound of rocket fire and artillery blasts, fled their homes and began living on the streets.

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The first night, instead of finding cats to feed in the town of Ma’alot, volunteers were overwhelmed by the stench of death: Many cats already had died.

Since that night, Vardi and his volunteers rescued countless animals by putting out food and water and finding foster homes for others. Many of the cats were street cats that had lived off residents’ handouts and garbage.

With the locals no longer there, their situation turned desperate, Vardi said.

Vardi tells the story of two large, emaciated dogs his team found during one of their night rescue tours.

Their owner had left food and water for a few days, but had chained the dogs on leashes s” TARGET=”_blank”>, or can be mailed to Hakol Chai, POB 51858, Tel Aviv 67214, or in the U.S., to CHAI, POB 3341, Alexandria, VA 22302, USA.

Photos courtesy Hakol Chai.