In recent weeks we have all been made aware of the terrible humanitarian situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban retook control of the country. I do not intend to dwell on this subject but rather to unfold the uplifting story of one man’s passion to save animals, particularly dogs, trapped in the cross fire in Afghanistan.
In November 2006, the men of Kilo Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines arrived in the war-torn town of ‘Now Zad’ in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Their mission: “to provide stability for the local people during a period of ever decreasing security.”
However, the Royal Marines soon realised that it wasn’t only the local people that needed their help. Many of the stray dogs that roamed the town of ‘Now Zad’ now had a guardian for the first time in their lives, in the form of Royal Marine Sergeant “Pen” Farthing. To even contemplate such an undertaking took courage as they were operating at the time in what was described as “the most dangerous place on earth.” There were no animal clinics in the whole of Afghanistan.
Farthing’s first rescue came in 2006 when he met a young dog that was being used for dogfighting, which is culturally embedded into Afghan society. “Animal welfare was not even on my mind,” he says. “I was just concerned with that one dog, so I brought him back with me.”
Thus, began his heroic mission to save countless dogs.
In the 10 years or so that Nowzad has been operating, Farthing and his support staff have reunited over 1,600 soldiers with the dogs and cats that they rescue and bond with on the front lines in Afghanistan and continue to be there for the brave men and women who show compassion to animals during their deployment.
Furthermore, Nowzad manages a dog shelter currently looking after over 140 dogs along with a cat shelter (over 40 cats) supported by a modern veterinary clinic staffed by a team of 24 Afghan nationals (including Afghanistan’s first female veterinarians) delivering care and attention to animals in distress. As Farthing adds: “Our vital work in Afghanistan also includes animal welfare education which includes doing what we can to prevent the spread of rabies. All dogs and cats that pass through our clinic are either spayed or neutered and fully vaccinated against rabies.”
Starting an animal rescue organization anywhere is a major undertaking. But to start in such a war-torn area, with few resources and significant cultural differences on how to care for animals, just adds to the challenge. I can only stand back and marvel at what “Pen” Farthing has achieved.
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone associated with Nowzad in these current times.