Veterinarian works under fire to help Baghdad residents keep pets alive

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2008:

BAGHDAD– “People in Baghdad still want to look after animals
despite everything,” 26-year veterinarian Nameer Abdul Fatah told
Agence France-Presse in early January 2008.
“More Muslims keep dogs as pets than is generally believed,”
Fatah added. “There are many expensive dogs like Pekinese in the
city. People keep them inside at home, and don’t take them for
walks because of the danger” associated with life in a war zone.
Trained in small animal medicine in East Germany, Fatah,
46, often treats animals who have been injured in the sectarian
strife that has torn apart Baghdad since the 2003 U.S. invasion. He
acknowledged that “The windows of my car were blown out once, when I
was driving to examine a client’s dog, and another time I got bad
wounds in the leg from shrapnel. But I was never the target,” Fatah

His job is more dangerous now than before 2003, Fatah said,
but not necessarily more difficult.
“It was very difficult to get drugs under Saddam,” Fatah
told Agence France-Press, “because taxes made it impossible to
travel and U.N. sanctions made it difficult to import anything. Now
I can buy the medicine I need from abroad.”
Fatah said that he believes he is one of only two
veterinarians left in Iraq who are trained in small animal medicine.
No reports about the status of pet dogs in Iraq reached
ANIMAL PEOPLE in the 11 years before the U.S. invasion. There were
no humane societies in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime.
After the U.S. invasion, veterinarian Farah Murrani formed
the Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare on the premises of the Baghdad
Zoo, and for about a year treated street dogs and feral cats at
Al-Zawra Park in Baghdad. Working with the Humane Centre for Animal
Welfare in Jordan and Military Mascots, founded by Bonnie Buckley in
Merrimac, Massachusetts, Murrani also helped U.S. soldiers to send
home about 40 animals they had adopted in Iraq.
Death threats forced Murrani to flee Iraq in 2004. The Iraq
Society for Animal Welfare continued for about a year without a vet
before apparently falling dormant in 2005.
Military Mascots has continued to help U.S. soldiers to send
home adopted pets. Otherwise, the Agence France-Press profile of
Nameer Abdul Farah was the first report ANIMAL PEOPLE had received
about dogs in Iraq since 2005 that mentioned them except as victims
of multiple bombings at the Ghazil pet market in Baghdad, shooting
and poisoning in the name of rabies control, and random mayhem by
Reuters on December 18, 2007 reported that an employee of
the Blackwater private security firm employed in various capacities
by the U.S. government shot a street dog who had become a pet at the
New York Times’ Baghdad compound. The New York Times’ staffers’ dog
apparently challenged the approach of a Blackwater
explosives-sniffing dog.
The New York Times itself did not report the incident, but
acknowledged that it happened.

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