KABUL – War-torn Afghanistan is not know for its kind treatment toward dogs. From the popularity of dog fights, to grinding poverty, care of man's best friend has not been a top priority.
One former British soldier has taken on the battle to protect stray dogs and cats in her adopted country.
Louise Hastie and a team of Afghan nationals, operates the only official animal shelter in the country.
“We don’t turn any animal in need away,” said Hastie, who runs the Nowzad Animal Shelter in Kabul. Nowzad is named after the small town in Helmand where the first dog was adopted in 2007.
In six years, Nowzad has taken in thousands of animals of war, many of which were adopted by soldiers serving all over Afghanistan. The charity has organized the transport of over 400 dogs and cats to be reunited with former soldiers in the United States and the United Kingdom.
"These are animals who kept them going, gave them the few minutes of being normal every day," said Hastie. "It is unthinkable leaving a friend behind – so they are not going to want to leave a dog or cat behind."
The process of reuniting soldiers and their beloved pets is time-consuming and expensive. Just getting one animal to America costs as much as $4,000. The soldiers contribute what they can, but Nowzad raises the rest of the funds from charitable donations.
Helping send animals overseas is one way Nowzad can help animals and humans, but the charity hopes to expand its mission by making a difference here in Afghanistan.
Every animal at the shelter is vaccinated and spayed. Hastie would like to do this for as many stray dogs as possible to control the population and inoculate against diseases like rabies.
In the longer term, Nowzad plans to find more Afghan families willing to adopt its wards. So far 100 families have adopted animals from the shelter, but Hastie thinks that number can be much higher.
"We want to see every animal going into a home here where it will be loved and cared for, never go hungry...and will be looked after."