August 14, 2008
Afghan Stray Animal League
The Afghan Stray Animal League (ASAL) has supported a local animal shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan since 2004. Based in the United States, ASAL operates the shelter through a full-time Afghan staff, including a veterinarian, his assistant and a shelter manager. Their aim is to provide low- or no-cost veterinary care for homeless, abandoned, sick or injured small animals in the Afghan capital. Kabul is a city with a large number of neglected street dogs and cats as well as other backyard animals, where most owners cannot afford proper treatment.
The shelter can provide a roof over the head for about 20 dogs and 30 cats. The shelter staff does not turn away any needy animal who is brought to them. Typical treatments include caring for injuries, vaccinating, deworming, bathing and soothing painful skin diseases.
Shep and Skitters
Good examples of the pets at ASAL are Shep and Skitters. Shep, a blind German Shepherd puppy, was very thin and unhappy when he was brought in because he did not stand much of a chance against more agile dogs when it came to the dinner bowl. The first friend he made was Skitters, a tiny dog terrified of people. Together they developed a bond and worked through their individual problems and quirks, as well as their physical and medical disabilities. Today, and surely many can relate, they share a suitcase for a bed, ready to pack up for a long trip to the United States or a short trip across the city. If only humans were this resilient!
The ASAL mission
A major goal of the organization is to reduce the population of unwanted street animals. They offer both neutering and spaying of cats and dogs with the help of international veterinarians. These services are provided free of charge, although donations to cover the cost of vaccines and medicines are greatly appreciated.
ASAL's primary mission is to care for needy small animals, restore them to health and find them loving homes. Most of those who adopt animals are foreigners, and ASAL will work to ship adopted or rescued pets to the United States if need be. They are also encouraging Afghans to consider adoption as a legitimate possibility. Until now, the country has been devastated by war and poverty, and there are many misconceptions about animals, leading to neglect, abuse and even fear of animals. The League provides free dog houses, food, vaccines and other supplies to any Afghan who adopts a pet while conducting home visits to ensure the animal's well-being. Taking after fellow Animal Advocate Uganda SPCA, they also offer free talks at local non-profit children's programs about the humane treatment of animals, which hopefully arms future adults with knowledge to be shared with family and friends.
Many American soldiers in Afghanistan also find solace in taking care of stray animals, but U.S. military guidelines forbid keeping them. The League offers many of these soldiers a way to find good homes for the animals they have rescued. The strategy keeps the animals safe from possible euthanasia, and it gives the soldiers a sense of relief that their best friends will be looked after. "This approach does not break the rules," affirms an ASAL rep. "It helps soldiers not to break the rules by giving them a choice."
To date, ASAL has helped save more than 400 animals. And Shep and Skitters? Both found forever homes in the U.S. in May 2008. Shep went to Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Montana and Skitters to a family in Washington State.
Humane Society International congratulates ASAL on its many achievements and welcomes the organization as a 2008 Animal Advocates awardee.