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On Monday, Turkey experienced a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake that has killed more than 21,000 people, per the most recent reporting from The Guardian. The epicenter of the disaster was just 50 miles west of the Syrian border, with the brunt of the damage taking place in northwestern Syria, where citizens have already been displaced by the ongoing conflict in the region. The earthquake and its 317 aftershocks have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian crisis occurring in Syria, leaving people without adequate food, shelter, and basic necessities as temperatures nosedive below freezing.
While natural disasters are frighteningly unpredictable, there is some evidence to suggest that animals are attuned to events like this and may have even sensed the quake in Turkey before it took place. The sensitivity of animals can also aid humanitarian efforts; the U.S. has sent six specially trained dogs, along with nearly 100 Los Angeles County firefighters and structural engineers to Turkey to aid search and rescue efforts. India, Taiwan, Switzerland, Poland, Croatia, and Germany have also sent rescue dogs to assist with locating people and animals trapped in the rubble. Mexico even deployed its search-and-rescue teams, complete with 16 handlers and their pups, to Turkey.
So that you can help from where you are, we’ve included a list of organizations that have begun efforts to send resources to the animals of Turkey and Syria.
Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria
Ernesto’s Sanctuary, a nonprofit rescue organization and cat sanctuary in the northwestern area of Syria, is asking for donations to help with evacuation tools as they help to rescue animals who are trapped following the earthquake. In a February 8 Facebook post, they wrote, “We realized that we need the excavation tools because under the rubble there is full of stories yet to be discovered, so starting tomorrow morning we will go digging and looking for the animals. We will give hospitality to every animal in need. Whether it’s temporary or permanent. We are the only organization who work to take care of the animals in the earthquake areas so we can only give our best.”
On their website, Ernesto’s says they are home to more than 1,800 cats, and they have a free veterinary clinic in Aleppo, Syria, where residents can bring their cats to be treated by vets and a nursing team. Ernesto’s started with one man who was feeding cats in the middle of Aleppo and is reportedly the first organization of its kind in the area.
You can donate to their PayPal, via their U.S. partner, Gunther’s Family, here. Ernesto’s has asked that you not include the words “Syria” or “Aleppo” in your memo alongside your donation. They are posting updates on their Facebook page here and on their Twitter account here. You can find them on Instagram here.
Please be aware that this organization has reported a scam Instagram account, with the handle @ernestossanctuaryfor, that is advertising a false PayPal link. Please do not send money to that account, and always make sure you’re sending money to a legitimate organization following natural disasters like this.
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
On February 7, IFAW posted that they are preparing to send emergency support to local organizations in Syria and Turkey. They noted that they are working with Ernesto’s, as they have in the past, to get them the support they need and added that they will continue to identify ways supporters can help; please keep checking their site for more information. You can donate to their efforts to help affected animals in both regions here.
Pets in Turkey (PIT)
PIT is a Swiss-based organization that is focused on helping stray pets in Turkey. Their website points to the problem of stray animals in Turkey — a concerning issue even before these recent events. PIT began in 2017, and the org is working with fellow nonprofit Raise Your Paw to send resources to animals in need, with the help of Izmir, Turkey-based pet service, Yuuki Dog House & Training.
PIT was able to send 450 kilograms of dog dry food, 225 kilograms of cat dry food, and eight boxes of wet food on Tuesday and is continuing their efforts to help. You can find all of the methods for donating to PIT here. You can send funds to Raise Your Paw via Paypal at email@example.com.
The Wildest will continue to report relief efforts and detail how you can help with them. If you know of orgs who are helping, please DM us on Instagram here (@thewildestsite).
Christopher Furlong is helping fleeing pets and people tell their stories.
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Rescue organizations are in need of donations (and adoptions) after the devastating storm.
Here’s a list of orgs assisting with rescue efforts.
Eve Bañuelos on how a pregnant dog and a pandemic layoff inspired her to start an organization that rescues dogs in California and Mexico as shelters overflow.
Avery is an editor at The Wildest. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her fiancé and cat, Chicken, and has high hopes that one of them will let her adopt a dog.
Hilary Weaver is the senior editor at The Wildest. She has previously been an editor at The Spruce Pets, ELLE, and The Cut. She was a staff writer at Vanity Fair from 2016 to 2019, and her work has been featured in Esquire, Refinery 29, BuzzFeed, Parade, and more. She lives with her herding pups, Georgie and Charlie.