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Two-Legged Help Stands Up Baghdad Animal Welfare Facility

By Spc. Chad D. Wilkerson, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 4, 2004 – Much of the coalition forces' work in Iraq focuses on improving the lives of the country's citizens. In some cases, the benefits are not limited to humans.

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Capt. William Sumner holds a puppy at the Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare facility's grand opening in Baghdad. Sumner has worked closely with the Baghdad Zoo staff and interim government officials to make the animal welfare organization a reality. The captain is the arts, monuments and archives officer for the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, an Army Reserve unit from Riverdale, Md., part of Task Force 1st Armored Division. Photo by Spc. Chad D. Wilkerson, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

With the help of soldiers from the Army's 1st Armored Division and 5th Corps, and funding from the 22nd Signal Brigade, Iraqi veterinarians recently cut the grand-opening ribbon at the Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare in central Baghdad.

The society, made up of military and civilian veterinarians and Iraqi ministry officials, was formed to address the growing need for animal control in Baghdad.

"It is the first of its kind in the country" and will operate much like the Humane Society in the United States said Capt. William Sumner, arts, monuments and archives officer for the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade. His unit is an Army Reserve outfit from Riverdale, Md., and part of Task Force 1st Armored Division. .

Sumner said studies of Iraq's canine population revealed startling results. Because one litter of puppies can multiply into 69,000 dogs within one year, the dog population in Iraq could cause problems on a national scale if left unchecked.

"Diseases like leishmaniasis and rabies are problems related to dogs, and pose a real threat to Iraqis," said Sumner. "Our organization will be able to begin addressing these kinds of animal issues."

The Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare will aid in providing solutions to problems like canine overpopulation and disease control. It also will provide adoption and spay-and-neuter programs, he said.

Until recently, cultural taboos involving animal care in Iraq restricted progress and awareness. Dr. Farah Murrani, assistant director of the Baghdad Zoo and director of the Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare, is an English- speaking Iraqi veterinarian. He joined the zoo staff last spring and acted as a liaison between Iraqi zoo workers, U.S. Army veterinarians and civil affairs soldiers.

Murrani's willingness to touch and treat "unclean" animals, and her heartfelt desire to aid her country, made her a prime candidate to lead this new animal- care center, Sumner said.

"I am a veterinarian, so I am doing what I know how to do in order to help the people of Iraq and aid the reconstruction," said Murrani.

Sumner, whose experience with zoo planning and operations allowed him to play an important role in the establishment of the new animal welfare organization, said the society's formation is a first step toward a safer and animal-friendly country.

"This is the first step in establishing an animal-control program here in Baghdad. We hope it will extend throughout Iraq," said Sumner. "The society is designed not only to help prevent animal cruelty, but to raise the overall awareness of the public for animals in Baghdad."

(Army Spc. Chad D. Wilkerson is assigned to the 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Related Sites:
1st Armored Division
5th Corps
22nd Signal Brigade

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCapt. William Sumner holds a puppy at the Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare facility's grand opening in Baghdad. Sumner has worked closely with the Baghdad Zoo staff and interim government officials to make the animal welfare organization a reality. The captain is the arts, monuments and archives officer for the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, an Army Reserve unit from Riverdale, Md., part of Task Force 1st Armored Division. Photo by Spc. Chad D. Wilkerson, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAn Iraqi child points to a puppy in the Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare facility during its grand opening in Baghdad. The new facility is the base for the society's operations and will provide animal welfare services such as spaying and neutering, and pet adoption. Photo by Spc. Chad D. Wilkerson, USA  
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