Amid quake's devastation, parallel rescue bid targets pets

Already, field hospitals have been set up in four cities to care for rescued pets

Mehmet Gurkan, a member of the Turkish animal rights group HAYTAP, rescues a dog that was trapped for seven days inside a house affected by the earthquake in Antakya, southeastern Turkey. AP


Six days after the earthquake that flattened parts of Turkey and Syria, two survivors emerged from the rubble. They were dogs, the focus of a parallel rescue effort underway.

“One of the dogs clung to its owner’s corpse, and it was absolutely a miracle that it was rescued six days later,” said Csenay Tekinbas, a representative of the local HAYTAP animal welfare group.

“I hope it holds on to life,” Tekinbas said of the dog that finally left its dead owner. “I hope we can give it a new life.”

Already, field hospitals have been set up in four cities to care for rescued pets.

Survival is just the first step. Those hurrying to find and care for pets also struggle to give them proper care. “There is no food, bird food, chicken feed or anything in any pet shop at the moment. Because everywhere is either closed or collapsed,” Tekinbas said.

Large bags of pet food are stacked at a relief station in one Antakya square, their crisp images of green lawns and happily panting pets contrasting with the grim surroundings. Nearby, a burly dog nibbles at a bowl.

The outreach to save pets goes as far as pounding down doors. After being alerted to a dog apparently left alone on the fourth floor of a building, HAYTAP workers put on hard hats and broke into the apartment to rescue a large, fluffy German shepherd.

As the dog slurped noisily at a metal bowl of water downstairs in a crumbling alley, the workers lavished affection on it. ___