BarkinQ – Volunteers for Dogs has embarked on an awareness campaign at nurseries and schools to educate students, especially young children, about animal welfare and the situation of stray animals in Qatar.

‘We are visiting nurseries and schools to introduce children to young dogs and try to remove any fears,’ said co-founder James Hewitt. BarkinQ recently visited Twyla Nursery at The Pearl-Qatar, who inspired the dog rescue group to educate children about animal welfare. ‘This was originally an invitation and idea by a member of staff of the Twyla nursery at The Pearl-Qatar who said that they were educating children about animals. We then coupled this with an idea to raise food for the strays so that the animals also benefit,’ said Hewitt.

BarkinQ is run by Hewitt, and his wife Donja El Gendy who, along with the help of volunteers, rescue street dogs in Qatar and organise their adoption from Qatar to the US.

As part of the campaign, BarkinQ has been to four nurseries so far, seeing over 200 children during each visit. ‘We try to introduce the fact that these are animals that need love and care, and food. We tell them how to touch, hold and carry animals. We talk about cleanliness and the golden rules about not going to dogs they don’t know, etc. We would like to talk about the stray issue but we need to speak to older children about that,’ said Hewitt. Talking to children at nurseries, BarkinQ simply wants to slowly build confidence in the children’s relationship with animals and to teach them to trust and respect animals. BarkinQ hopes to speak to older children and students to build a bigger volunteer community that would be able to take on a challenge to feed and rescue strays.

‘We had great feedback from one of the mothers saying that her child was so scared of animals, and after our visit, she is more confident around them, and asking her mother to give a home to a dog in need,’ said El Gendy. ‘The children are wonderful, and they grow in confidence very quickly. Over the visits, we have seen children that were scared now lead their group’s interaction with animals. We teach gentility, respect and care,’ added Hewitt.

BarkinQ will also be joining school fairs to raise funds by selling donated items and raise awareness by talking to students, parents and teachers.

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: 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, our house is too small, etc,’ said El Gendy.

‘We really had to deal with very difficult situations where our adopted dogs were 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,’ she added.

As a result, BarkinQ does not allow adoptions in Qatar. Instead, rescued dogs travel to the US to find new families and homes. ‘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, and 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 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 at the airport at the check in counter and we are there with the dogs getting them ready.’

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 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 due to a car accident or abuse. A single operation can be from QAR3,000-5,000 a dog,’ 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.

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.

BarkingQ will continue to visit nurseries and schools to educate children about animal welfare. Nurseries or schools interested in welcoming BarkinQ to speak to their students can reach out to the dog rescue group on Facebook.

Author: Ola Diab

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