PETA Saves Animals in the Aftermath of Syria, Turkey Earthquakes

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20 min read

It’s been more than three months since earthquakes convulsed Syria and Turkey, killing, injuring, and displacing countless humans and other animals. The lifeline to dogs, cats, and other survivors—through the support of PETA’s Global Compassion Fund—remains vital as animal shelters in both countries struggle to cope. They face a shortage of medications and are surrounded by deep poverty—and countless dogs and cats are desperate to find food. We continue to help in Aleppo, Syria, and a PETA team from Europe was back on the ground in Antakya recently to help in Turkey, where they’ve rescued 290 dogs and cats.

Another shipment of food and veterinary supplies recently reached animals in Syria. It’s not as easy as one-click shopping to get deliveries into the war-torn country, but Global Compassion Fund–backed teams have pulled out all the stops for the many destitute animals there, and their determination prevailed.

In Turkey, another earthquake rattled the partner veterinary clinic in Adana, but everyone inside the building is safe—including safe – including the animals still recovering there, like big boy Omar.


This sweet dog was suffering from a terrible face wound when the team found him in a park in Antakya. He also had a big tumor on his head and has since undergone surgery to remove it. Omar is recovering well, thanks to the clinic’s care.

Two patients who had the longest roads to recovery—Tarkan and Judy—have been adopted! Virtual champagne corks were popping when these two sweethearts were finally well enough to have their bags packed and move in with their new families.

The team found sweet Tarkan in an abandoned building with a broken leg and ingrown nails. They carefully transported him to the clinic for surgery. Two months later, he was fully recovered and ready to go with his new family.
Judy was in a great deal of pain after being hit by a car and not receiving any veterinary care. Her rescuers could smell the horrible infection before they approached, but they wasted no time whisking her away to the clinic for help. After a month spent recovering, she met her new family, and her tail never seems to stop wagging.

How You Can Help Animals in Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and Elsewhere!

Cats, dogs, and others in Syria, Turkey, and elsewhere need aid right now and for months and years to come. Your donation to PETA’s Global Compassion Fund will support rescuers and provide care for animals who may not have any other hope.

Check Out the Latest Updates from the Rescue Team:

Lucky’s Lucky Day

One more for the road! The Global Compassion Fund–supported rescue team had just loaded nine cats, most of whom were pregnant, into their vehicle and were pulling away when one determined and hungry cat stopped them. She jumped in front of the car, bringing it to a screeching halt.

They scooped up the brave little cat and named her Lucky.

Their next stop was Maxim Park in Antakya, where veterinarians and volunteers have set up a temporary field clinic to help the many abandoned dogs and cats in the area. The city continues to bulldoze damaged buildings, razing the homeless animals’ hiding places, so the park population is growing fast. Many of the dogs and cats desperately search for food, and the team rescues as many as they can fit in their vehicle. One sweet cat was so famished that she leapt toward the food that had been offered to her, grabbing it right out of her rescuer’s hands. Another cat didn’t wait for the team to finish putting food into a carrier—he sprinted to them and leapt inside.

Robin the cat gets fed and rescued from rubble

Six kittens who were only a couple days old were in serious jeopardy with their mother nowhere to be found. The team gently secured them in the car, too, knowing just who would care for them.

Back at the PETA-supported veterinary clinic, another cat who had been rescued earlier that week had lost her babies. One by one, the veterinarian carefully placed by her side the six precious, motherless kittens the rescuers had just picked up. She nuzzled into the veterinarian’s face and then lovingly accepted the kittens, lying down as they started to suckle.

Many Destitute Animals, Few Helpers

Turkey has long struggled with cat and dog overpopulation. In Antakya, pregnant cats are searching through the rubble to find a safe place to give birth. To survive, their kittens will have to learn to dodge traffic and scavenge through garbage dumps to fill their empty stomachs.

Our team is scooping up these pregnant cats as fast as they can. The nearest shelter is about four hours away, and it’s at maximum capacity. And as most of Turkey is focused on rebuilding, local animal advocate partners are desperately working to build support to house rescued, homeless animals and abate this terrible crisis.

Rescuers from PETA entities in Europe are there now, racing against time to rescue more injured and pregnant animals and help our local partners deal with many challenges.

Teams supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund have begun successful, worldwide spay/neuter programs, and now we’re sterilizing animals affected by the earthquakes. Meanwhile, teams in other countries are attempting to persuade celebrities to speak out for those who need homes.

Rushing Aid to War-Torn Syria

In Syria, as much as the government wants parts of the country to be reopened to tourism, there are grave dangers and open hostilities, and countries are advising their citizens not to venture there. As Global Compassion Fund support reached a Syrian rescue organization, the results of a country marred by civil war showed in the ramshackle shelter we’re trying to help and in the scarcity of volunteers willing to risk physical assault to save animals.

“We are mocked and humiliated on a daily basis during our missions, and volunteers are risking their life every single time they rescue animals. If a soldier doesn’t like what you are doing or doesn’t like how you answered their questions, they can easily shoot you down without any hesitation, with no accountability to anyone.”

—A worker with a Syrian animal rescue organization backed by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund

The risks haven’t stopped the group from rescuing animals and establishing a makeshift shelter for those without homes. They still pull animals from the dust and debris—even now, nearly two months after the earthquakes—and help the survivors they find. They either provide what care they can on the spot or, if possible, arrange transport to Beirut for those who need surgery.

The shelter is in desperate need of repairs and medication, and in a country where corruption and chaos rule, getting money to the organization is no easy feat. But PETA’s resolve has helped donor support to the Global Compassion Fund reach the team and power their brave fight for the animals.

Elif’s Search for Her Beloved Companion

The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria brought a building down on top of Elif and her grandparents, burying the 16-year-old under a mountain of debris. When her father and uncle were finally able to reach the area the next day, they frantically dug through the rubble to save her life. They found her grandparents dead and Elif alive but badly injured. Pulled from the collapsed building, she was devastated to learn about her grandparents and that Behlul, her beloved cat, was nowhere to be found and also presumed dead.

Nearly a month later, while Elif was recovering from the trauma and her horrible leg injury, a team supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund was still on the ground in Antakya, about 3 miles away, racing to rescue as many cats and dogs as possible before officials demolished the unstable buildings these displaced, escaped animals were using for shelter.

Among them was a terrified cat who avoided the team at every turn, but PETA-supported rescuers never say never! Eventually, they were able to get a little closer to the hungry fellow and used pungent food to earn his trust. He couldn’t resist, and into the trap he went. They named him Erkan, and he was soon at a partner veterinary clinic in Adana, enjoying his fill of long-missed food and water.

That’s when the veterinarian scanned him for a microchip, and the stored information revealed his guardian’s name and phone number as well as his real name—Erkan was actually Elif’s precious Behlul!

The clinic set up a video call, and Elif and her family were overjoyed to find their beautiful cat safe and sound. They made their way to Adana, and soon the cat was nestled in Elif’s arms.

“This work involves many dark and difficult moments, and many stories don’t have happy endings, but I will never forget the joy on their faces and Behlul’s purr upon being reunited with his beloved Elif.”

 —Mimi Bekhechi, PETA U.K. vice president and rescue team member

The determined rescuers, from multiple PETA entities, risked their lives to save 182 dogs, cats, birds, and fish. They smashed through locked doors and scrambled up crumbling staircases in countless unstable buildings to get to animals trapped inside. At night, covered from head to toe in dust, they brushed themselves off, walked the dogs at the partner veterinary clinic, and arranged transport for those with clean bills of health for a chance at a better life. Please support this vital work.

Local partners are still on the ground in Turkey, and you can support them and the care of animals affected by the earthquakes by donating to PETA’s Global Compassion Fund.

Rescuers in Turkey Hear Cat’s Alarm Bells

The team supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund carefully loaded a homeless cat with a painfully broken tail into the rescue vehicle so he could be treated at the closest veterinary clinic. About to leave the area, they were suddenly stopped by relentless, hoarse cries coming from a nearby rooftop.

They looked up to see a cat standing on the roof’s narrow ledge, staring down at them. Afraid he would jump, one brave rescuer quickly scaled a broken iron fence to reach the closest balcony. From there, she squeezed her way through a small hole in the wall to get to the damaged building’s staircase. Once she was on the roof, the hungry cat went straight to the pungent food inside the carrier. Success!

The team arrived at the clinic, where the vet scanned for a microchip that revealed a cell phone number. The cat’s grateful guardian called out his name, Duman, which caused him to arch his back and rub against the device. The pair have since been reunited and are now in a safer location in Turkey!

Rescuers Race Against Time to Save Animals as Buildings Are Demolished

A cat sits among the rubble from the earthquake in Turkey

Turkey struggled with animal overpopulation before the devastating earthquakes, and countless cats and dogs who relied on scraps from shops and restaurants to survive are now finding only dust and debris where those establishments once stood. Desperate to fill their stomachs, they gather wherever they can find a morsel to eat.

Police overseeing demolitions are delivering food to cats who have begun using the nearby unstable structures for shelter and assisting the team, supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund, in getting in and out of the buildings quickly, taking the animals to safety. Rescuers only have a short window of time before crews begin razing the buildings!

The team loaded up with food, traps, carriers, and other supplies and quickly got to work, scooping up as many cats as they could fit into the rescue vehicles, and then off they drove to safety at a partner veterinary clinic. Now the cats are being treated and are on the roster for sterilizations to combat the overpopulation crisis.

Venus the Cat Reunited With Grateful Guardians

Venus’ guardians went back to their damaged apartment hoping to find their beloved cat but came out empty-handed. Their luck changed when they met up with rescuers supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund. Knowing she was likely terrified from the tumult of the earthquakes and aftershocks, the team had to search hard for her. They found the traumatized cat hiding in a dark, tight space behind a washing machine and skillfully coaxed her into a carrier.

Hell No, We Won’t Go Without the Cat!

Near the shattered glass entryway of a building, the team could hear a cat loudly calling for help from somewhere inside. Following the desperate mews, they discovered him behind a padlocked door in the basement. A nearby police officer refused to open it, saying it would be against the law to enter government grounds. They quickly found another officer, who was slightly more sympathetic and called the fire department, but it, too, refused to assist, citing the law and saying it was just too dangerous. But our rescuers were not going to abandon this cat! After the police had left, one of the team members slipped back inside the building and raced down the stairs into the pitch-black basement. She smashed a glass window in the door with a hammer, and out came the cat, straight into the carrier. With this “mini rebellion” over, everyone rejoiced, and “Kirk” the cat celebrated with a lot of long-missed food and water.

Rescuers Finding Animals Alive Among the Rubble

Global Compassion Fund partner HARK is getting reports from guardians who contact their emergency line, most recently asking them to try to locate three cats who were left behind. PETA’s teams are on the ground, following up on the requests as they look for any stranded, starving animals.

A PETA rescuer stands in front of a street in Turkey

At the first stop, the team spotted cats James and Samir observing them. The handsome fellows were fed, scooped up, and safely secured in the rescue vehicle. Off to the next location!

Recent aftershocks left the road to another cat impassable, so the team grabbed food and traps before putting on hard hats and setting off on foot. Soldiers saw them coming and pointed them to two cats hiding in the rubble. Turşu and Mia were famished and came towards the food the team laid out for them, making it easy to gather them up.

Workers pet cats in the aftermath of the earthquake in Turkey

A resident still living in the area saw what the rescue team was doing, and beckoned them to follow him. A cat he had been feeding, Lori, had an injured paw from falling debris during the quake, and he wanted the team to have her leg tended to and to give her the chance to be taken from this unsafe place and adopted.

Spotting several other cats in the area, the team honed in on one with a painful eye injury. He had his ears flattened and his back arched, clearly terrified. The team slowly set out the trap and some pungent food, sure to entice him, and with success! Now, he will get the help he needs.

The team fed the rest of the cats in the area and left a supply of food behind for the man who refuses to leave and is feeding the remaining cats. That’s when sweet Olaf confidently approached them, tail upright, softly meowing. They returned his affections before lifting him into a carrier, then set off for the veterinary clinic in Adana. CB will need to have his eye – as well as a couple of painfully infected teeth – removed, but the vet has good news: Lori will heal quickly from her broken toes.

Once some of the animals the team has rescued over the weeks heal, they will be moved to HARK’s sanctuary – a safe haven for rescued animals supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund. Its partnership with PETA started before the earthquakes, and it became a loving home for some now-happy white pigs PETA rescued from experiments in laboratories.

Danger as Two Huge Aftershocks Rock Turkey

Rescuers supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund had just plucked starving earthquake survivors Quaid, Kim, and Ada from the debris-filled streets of Antakya when a dust-covered Turkish army vehicle pulled up to them. A soldier emerged and handed the team a bundle containing Roberta, a frightened puppy his squad had rescued from a nearby collapsed building.

Then, just as they were preparing to leave for the clinic in Adana with their latest rescues, the ground they were standing on began moving violently. A 6.3-magnitude earthquake was rolling through the area, collapsing damaged buildings they had searched only hours earlier. The team hardly had a chance to calm their nerves when that nasty scare was followed by a 5.6-magnitude aftershock! While all were shaken up, thankfully no one was hurt, and they soon set off with a van full of rescued animals.

In Adana, staff at the veterinary clinic, which had already been damaged, were shaken by this latest quake, too, and were now facing a new problem: They were becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of rescued animals needing urgent care!

One member of the team quickly worked with the head veterinarian to find a solution: The clinic would hire more temporary staff to help feed and care for the survivors, and rescuers would arrange to transport some of the animals to another clinic that had more space.

Quaid, Roberta, Kim, and 14 other uninjured dogs and cats are now heading on the long drive to Istanbul to be reunited with their families or to find new loving homes.

Day 9: Danger as Second Quake Rocks Turkey—Leona Cries Out for Help

Earlier this weekend, the team heard Leona, a cat, screaming in distress from a fourth-floor balcony. Fearful that she would jump to her death, the rescuers ran up a damaged staircase only to discover a locked door barring them from getting to her. They immediately called for a crane and used it to rescue her. She had been trapped in the building for 12 days, desperate for food and water.

Day 6: Moments of Hope Amid the Misery and Chaos

It’s been almost two weeks since a massive earthquake tore through Turkish cities like Marash, and for dozens of distressed and frightened animals, such as Bruno, Sarah, and Bear, the lifesaving work of rescuers like PETA U.K.’s Mimi Bekhechi is bringing hope—as well as food, warmth, and much-needed care—to the ruins of the ravaged city.

“As the images of the fractured cities of Syria and Turkey fade from our television screens and social media feeds, as they inevitably will, I want to encourage people to continue to do all they can to help the victimsof all speciesbecause they really do need all the support they can get.”
—Mimi Bekhechi, Vice President, PETA U.K.

Sarah was trembling, terrified from her ordeal, but the team knew something else was wrong when she couldn’t keep down the food the team gave her. And she couldn’t move. Mimi and the team gently loaded her into a rescue van that whisked her to veterinary care to try to determine what’s wrong and if she can be saved.

A dog rescued by PETA after the earthquake in Turkey is seen by a vet

Bruno had been found alone, tethered to a post among the rubble. This sweet, friendly pup’s energy contrasted with the dull, gray landscape as the team approached him. He appeared to be uninjured and was happy to have food and water before going to the vet.

A massive 2-month-old dog named Bear bounded toward the rescuers, the big bowl of food and water waiting for him a welcome sight. He, too, was saved and went with them.

The team headed into what was left of a house, where they found four cats. All were taken—along with Sarah, Bruno, and Bear—to the closest veterinary office, which was hours away.

When they arrived, all three dogs tested negative for parvovirus—which was a relief—and many of the animals were hungry. Sarah’s blood work confirmed liver and kidney problems, likely from ingesting something poisonous. It was a long day, but the team dug deep to find a second wind. More foster homes must be located. Later, once all the injured dogs and cats have healed, everyone—including those with fosters—will be driven to Istanbul and Ankara, where loving families will adopt them.

Next, a couple of team members headed to Hatay province to see if they could find someone going into Syria who could help with the establishment of a new supply chain for shelters there, while the rest of the team headed back to Marash to try to find cats who are trapped in the worst-affected area.

Even now, days after the catastrophe struck, a few humans and animals are still being pulled from the rubble alive. Rescuers supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund will be in the region as long as animals need the lifelines they’re providing.

Day 5 of Earthquake Rescues: Birds, Cats, and More Receive Help

The 40 birds the team rescued from a destroyed shop a few days ago are on their way to a sanctuary in Ankara after getting the OK from the vet who examined them. As the team was saying their goodbyes, they noticed that some of them had recovered enough from their ordeal to couple up and had begun preening each other.

The team was in Marash loading up on rescue supplies and looking for animals in distress when they heard little Lewis meowing loudly. His sad, lonely cries for help led rescuers right to the spot among the destroyed buildings where he was holed up. Lewis was desperately hungry, like other survivors the team has helped so far, but, thankfully, uninjured.

Destroyed buildings surround the busy intersection where the team found Zack begging for food. His rescuer scooped him into a carrier and moved him to a safer location away from the constant stream of cars and trucks whizzing by and is working to find homes for both him and Lewis.

The team found Fred trying to maneuver his way through a dangerous mess of shattered glass and was able to prevent him from becoming injured. He warmed up to his rescuer immediately, enjoying the food she offered, and soon he, too, joined the other rescued animals.

Support Reaches Animals in Syria

Global Compassion Fund support is also helping cats, dogs, chickens, and other animals in Syria. A partner organization needed help with food, veterinary care, and fuel to transport them to the nearest clinic, more than 200 miles away, so we stepped in to provide the funds.

Meet a Few of the Recently Rescued Animals

This is Talia, who was found limping through the devastated streets of Marash with a hideously painful, broken hip likely caused by debris falling from crumbling buildings. She had spent the days following the earthquake trying to stay warm and find food amid the misery and chaos surrounding her, all while pregnant. Talia is now safe at a clinic in Adana, where she’s undergoing hip surgery.

one of the cats helped by PETA's Global Compassion Fund

Thanks to generous Global Compassion Fund supporters, Valentina is getting the vital emergency help she needs. This puppy is deeply traumatized, and her leg is broken in two places. Her intense pain was bad enough, but now she may lose her leg. We took her to a veterinary clinic, where she’s receiving care and pain relievers.

The vet examining Finn revealed that this poor cat had already healed from a broken leg just before the earthquake! Luckily, Finn somehow managed to avoid falling debris and collapsing buildings without injury. She has had a bout of stomach woes—likely from scavenging through the ruins for food—but is now resting with a full stomach of nutritious food and is otherwise healthy, safe, and ready for a better life ahead.

Rescued! Plucked From the Rubble of an Earthquake Epicenter

Survivors! Rescuers supported by PETA’s Global Compassion Fund have been digging through what’s left of destroyed buildings in Turkey and Syria to rescue any surviving animals and get them veterinary care, if needed.

dog with broken leg rescued following earthquake in turkey

This sweet dog was found in the rubble at one of the earthquake epicenters in Elbistan, Turkey. She had gone for days without food and was suffering tremendously from a broken leg! The team rushed her to the closest veterinary clinic for surgery, and PETA’s Global Compassion Fund is paying the bills. As it’s doing for many other animals, a local partner group is already working to find her a loving home to recover in.

Soldiers helping quake victims had seen this terrified cat limping through the ruins for a few days but had had no luck catching her. After rescuers managed to scoop her up and take her to a veterinarian, the team was alarmed to learn that the soldiers had spotted her with a kitten, too! Rescuers are heading back to Elbistan to search for the kitten, while TVD is posting the photo on social media to try to locate her guardians, if they’re still alive.

PETA staff place donated fur coats into boxes

PETA is sending another fieldworker to join rescuers from PETA U.K., and they’ll do whatever is needed the most. Meanwhile, we have shipped 200 fur coats—donated by our kind members who realized what the animals used for them endured and who will never wear fur again—to Turkey and Syria to warm those who are now homeless and freezing cold.

PETA U.K. Rushes to Help Animals With Broken Bones in Turkey Who Were Trapped in Rubble

PETA U.K. helped the plucky local volunteers from a shelter in Elbistan, a town at the epicenter of one of Turkey’s two devastating earthquakes. These heroes have been risking everything to dig through rubble and pull animals from buildings that have collapsed or are about to fall. They have been able to provide animals with food and water, something they have gone without for days, and PETA U.K. is able to pitch in to help them: they are now rushing two puppies, two cats with broken bones, and another cat whose vision appears to have been impaired to the closest veterinary clinic in the city of Adana for urgent medical attention.

holding rescued dog after earthquake

All were pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings, and who knows what their level of trauma is. It is a seven-hour journey to get them veterinary attention, so they are making tracks to get them that help as quickly as possible.

These animals likely suffered for days, trapped under the debris in near-freezing temperatures. They desperately need treatment and care.

birds rescued from earthquake

After taking these animals to a veterinary clinic, PETA U.K. will return right away to the stricken Kahramanmaraş area to help more animals who have been trapped or otherwise injured in the catastrophe.

How to Help Animals in Turkey: Support the Global Compassion Fund

This latest crisis comes as PETA Germany and its partners in Ukraine are still actively helping abandoned and injured animals on the front lines of the war there, providing them with food and veterinary care. All such resources are supported by Global Compassion Fund donors.

Please don’t wait—animals’ lives are at stake. Your generous donation will give a real boost to rescuers who are helping animals in Syria, Turkey, and elsewhere around the globe.

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