Are you flying from Qatar to North America or Europe? Don’t go empty-handed! Take the opportunity to be a flight buddy and bring joy to families as you escort a pet overseas and unite it to its soon-to-be family.

There are many animals especially cats and dogs waiting — sometimes over months — to go to their new found homes. Without any cost, be a flight buddy. All you need to do is meet the hopeful pet and its rescuer at the airport. The paperwork and payment is prepared in advance — without any cost or effort required from you. Your flight buddy will fly with you on your baggage ticket.

Most animal rescuers focus on finding homes for animals abroad. Donja El Gendy and her husband, James Hewitt, founders of BarkinQ, only allow adoptions from Qatar to the US. ‘We only send our rescued four-legged friends to the US as it is much easier in regards to the required papers they need to have. This is the vaccination papers,’ said El Gendy. ‘We always need flight buddies throughout the whole year, so these dogs will be stuck here with their foster families if not travelling. I always say flight buddies are the easiest part though the most important in any rescue cycle, as without them, the dogs will be stuck here. We sometimes lose their foster homes, for any reason, and then we face a very hard decision of releasing them back to the street where they will experience a slow death, as the shortage of foster families in Qatar is making our mission very hard,’ explained El Gendy.

BarkinQ volunteers and foster parents at Hamad International Airport (HIA), sending off six dogs to they new homes and shelters in the USA

The couple created BarkinQ in the holy month of Ramadan in 2016. ‘We held lots of puppies adoption events where people were welcomed after a home check and an interview to adopt a puppy. But unfortunately with all our precautions and strict adoption forms, we faced lots of very sad stories in Qatar with people adopting pups and throwing them back to the street after they grow up, giving silly reasons like we can’t handle the dog anymore or our house is too small. Well you know that this dog won’t stay a puppy forever, no? We really had to deal with very difficult situations where our adopted dogs are sold to the souq and we had to buy them back, which is brutal and soul destroying. Cruelty happens everywhere in the world, but the difference between here and the US is the strict law, which makes it easy for rescue groups and animal lovers to report cruel incidents and know deep inside there will be action,’ explained El Gendy.

As a result, BarkinQ stopped adoption in Qatar. ‘Our priority is the safety of the animals before the need or the wish of the humans to have a dog at home for their kids to play with or to show off in front of their friends, that they have a husky or a GSD, which are not suited for this hot climate. This is by itself cruelty,’ she added.

Therefore, BarkinQ are always in need of flight buddies traveling to the US. We require the booking reference, and a copy of their passport so we can book the dogs on the flight and finish their exit permit from the government vet. That’s all we need. We don’t take any of their luggage allowance and they just turn up in the airport at the check in counter and we are there with the dogs getting them ready.’

It is useful if they have a degree of flexibility and have a deeper understanding of what they are achieving by accompanying the dogs to a new home. If at all possible, and if they have a higher status within Qatar Airways Privilege club, it would be deeply appreciated if they could bring back crates,’ said Hewitt.

Nine-year-old foster mom Ava working with BarkinQ to foster and send dogs abroad

BarkinQ has sent over 250 dogs to new homes abroad. They work with animal rescue organisations and shelters in the US and are still seeking for more partnerships. ‘There are three main shelters in Qatar and lots of rescue groups and individuals. People can certainly help by going to these shelters and feed, walk or wash the dogs there,’ said El Gendy. ‘We are always in need of foster homes who can keep our dogs for 1-3 months safe and secured until they get on a plane, we always need flight buddies, and we always need financial support to cover our vet bills and flight costs. We are also picking up injured dogs who have very minimal chances to live or to be taken care of, a single operation can be from QAR3,000-5,000 a dog, as most of them will be a result of a car accident or abuse,’ she explained.

‘We would love to see more people helping the rescue community and not always rely on the rescue groups as we can’t do it alone. We are not getting any government funding and we are dependent on people who support us,’ said El Gendy. BarkinQ is now in the process of going to schools, nurseries and Qatar Airways to educate the public about the situation of street animals in Qatar. ‘The public can help by seeking to advise against cruelty and recognise that some dogs by their simple structure are not suited to the heat. The public can help by placing cool bowls of water outside and in the evenings provide leftovers if they can afford to, buy a bag of dog/cat food and feed the animals on the street,’ added Hewitt. ‘The public need to understand that this is a charity and that BarkinQ is not a travel agent or shipper and as a result are constantly seeking to raise money for dogs to travel and are very grateful to supporters.’

BarkinQ recently rescued a four-month old puppy called Farra who was badly abused by her owner who hit her on the head and caused a fracture in the skull. As a result, she lost her eyesight and control over her nerve system so she can’t eat or drink by herself. ‘We are now thinking of taking her to Turkey or the US to do a critical operation in her skull as we don’t lose hope. If there is a 1% chance, we fight the battle with them. For us unlike other people, they are not damaged goods, they deserve a decent life like us,’ said El Gendy.

This month, BarkinQ sent six dogs to new families and shelters in the US. Two of the dogs are Lucy and Roza who are the only survivors of the Al Wakra Dog Shooting, where at least six dogs were shot dead in March 2018.

To become a flight buddy, simply visit the BarkinQ – Volunteer for Dogs Facebook page or call 5573 2144.

Paws Rescue Qatar sends animals to countries in both North America and Europe. ‘We book the animals on the buddy flight, we do all the paperwork, and check in the animals with the buddy when they do their usual check in. The animals are wheeled away and are next seen when the buddy collects their bags. All we ask is they wheel the animals out into the arrivals hall, where someone will be waiting for them,’ said Paws cat coordinator and exports, Kate Lennon. According to her, Paws need flight buddies all the time. ‘Buddies enable us to get our animals out to new homes in overseas locations. There are so few homes here so this is something we have to do. It is very cheap compared to sending them by cargo, which helps us to send more animals than we could otherwise. It still makes no economic sense at all but it means we can save many more lives by freeing up spaces here in Doha, and we have rehomed hundreds of animals overseas, from most of whom we get regular updates,’ she said.

Paws Rescue Qatar fly animals to their new homes abroad via Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian and Turkish Airways

As temperatures rise in the summer in Qatar, the season becomes the most challenging for animal shelters in the country as street animals cannot survive the heat and more people travel leaving their pets behind. ‘Many people leave Qatar and realise they cannot take their pets and leave them behind. It is way too hot for animals not acclimatised to be out in the streets so its a double hit. There are many more needing help, and less people to help them, and we have less resources also as we rely on other people to help with transport, food, water and most important fuel to keep our generator going. When people leave for the summer then our help and support dries up also. We would ask that anyone finding an animal needing help, particularly at this time of year, tries to help them personally, as we just don’t have the people, space or resources to help every animal even though we would like to. We would also ask people that have been feeding animals, if they are leaving for the summer to find someone else to continue with that. Once animals are used to being fed it is very difficult for them to go it alone,’ said Lennon.

Paws Rescue Qatar calls on those staying in Qatar over the summer to either volunteer at Paws or help with animal and supply runs, or administration. Paws also highly encourages the public to seriously consider fostering an animal for the summer. The rescue group also encourages the public to simply put out water and food for street animals that might be struggling. ‘If you are flying out then please think about buddying for us. There are many ways to make a difference,’ said Lennon.

To become a flight buddy, simply visit the Paws Recuse Qatar Facebook page.

Animal rescue shelters in Qatar that need flight buddies:
If you’re looking to do some volunteer work this summer, in general, animal rescue shelters in Qatar are the best places to go as they need your help and donations the most. To volunteer, contact the animal shelter of your choice for more information.

Author: Ola Diab

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