By Lori Kalef, SPCAI program manager
We are living in a time when it’s become next to impossible to wake up each day and not be frightened by what’s going in the world. It seems that with each new day, there is a bigger wake up call. Terrorism, abuse of power, violence, racism and abuse dominate the headlines on every social media or news site there is. The impact it has on our lives is considerable, even if we are lucky to live in a peaceful area of the world. Of course it is no surprise that our OBP: Worldwide program has been significantly challenged by current events as well since we many of our rescues originate in the Middle East.
It’s therefore especially rewarding during these precarious times when our team is able to save the lives of the beloved dogs and cats that have made brave U.S. servicemembers time overseas bearable. Evi is one of those perfect examples. When “Hawk” first found this beautiful dog at the entrance gate of his base, he said he fell in love with her the moment he saw her. “I was leaving base one day and saw her at the entry control point. She was just sitting quietly. I spoke to her and told her she was a beautiful girl. I wanted to scoop her up right then and there. ” Now Evi is getting ready to make her journey home to the United States to live with Hawk’s family until he returns home from Kuwait, all because of your generous support and encouragement.
In addition to Evi, your generous donations have helped us approve for rescue 10 other animals beloved by American’s stationed overseas - Mowgli in Kuwait; Nala and Squeaker in Egypt; Poly, Freckles, Nightboy, Mr.Meowgi, Oliver and Momma Dog in Iraq; and Savage the little pup in Jordan. And even as I write this, another U.S. Soldier just applied for a sweet little cat she has fallen for on base in Kuwait!
Each rescue for one of our heroic Soldiers and brave Americans serving overseas for our country is unique and there are many details, new hurdles, red tape and complications that arise for each one. The dogs and cats that we save for our military members come from remote areas or bases that are not typically easy to access. The recent plane hijacking in Egypt and high terror alerts in the Middle East has resulted in closed airports and a backlog of passengers. That is forcing us to get more creative and find alternate routes and methods. Many of you may have wondered why it sometimes takes weeks or months to complete a rescue, or how the costs are broken down so I thought I would take this opportunity to share.
It is quite often that we have to send a security team that have special access to check points and roads to rescue one of these beloved pets. Or we might utilize partners in nearby countries. Just these first steps normally cost hundreds of dollars. We often have to quarantine the animals in boarding for 30 days to give them appropriate care, vaccinations, find airline approved kennels as well as attain the export paperwork which amounts to hundreds of dollars as well.
The cost of an airline ticket and space in cargo can cost over one thousand dollars when we are able to use a flight volunteer. When a flight volunteer can’t be found, cargo travel (with the animal flying unaccompanied) can be even more expensive.
Once these dogs or cats reach the U.S., their paperwork becomes obsolete and they are once again issued new certificates, examined by a stateside veterinarian, boarded for 24 hours and then transported via pet cargo to their final destination. Again, all costing hundreds of dollars.
There are also many other costs that are not detailed here, like room and board for our flight volunteer, food, supplies, transport to and from airport and custom fees.
An all-volunteer organization it might be able to do a handful of these rescues at a lower cost, but they would not be able to operate in war zones, find routes to remote bases with each new request, or meet the demand we continually see without paid, fulltime staff and the extra expenses of security teams and paid veterinarians.
We are also proud to be able to offer all these related rescue services free of charge to our military personnel. We believe they have sacrificed enough and their anxiety about getting their pet to safety is enough for them to worry about – we don’t need to add surprisingly high cost of transport, veterinary exams and travel paperwork to their already worried minds.
So there you have it. Without the efforts of our many team members holding hands around the world, and without your outstanding support, these beloved four legged friends would never be able to be reunited with their heroic U.S. servicemembers who are risking their lives for our security and freedom. And that would be another tragedy in this already challenging world. YOU are saving lives!