In 2003 Ms. Fatemeh Motamedi, a long time animal rights advocate, established a non-governmental organization (NGO) to protect animal rights. She considered establishing a shelter for Iran, the country’s first. She thought to herself: "Why shouldn’t Iran have animal shelters like other countries?"
The shelter inched closer to reality when Motamedi’s husband donated a chunk of land. Much more was needed, however, besides land such as supplies, pet food, money, and staff to operate the facility. Raising money in a country not accustomed to animal shelters would not be easy. But that didn’t stop this small but dedicated group. They were on a mission to build a shelter and that’s what they would build.
Besides fundraising problems, engineering challenges burdened the group. The animal facility was located in a rural area so bringing in electricity and water were yet more obstacles to overcome. No animal shelter can function without water or electricity.
Eventually the hard-working group saw their dream unfold into reality. By mid 2004, VAFA, which means loyalty, accepted their first four footed occupants. Hungry, lost, and often frightened dogs found refuge on the outskirts of Hashtgerd, a new city.
Hundreds of stray dogs live in the area. Since they are not altered, they constantly reproduce. Cars often hit dogs as they cross busy highways. Not all die immediately. Some linger in agonizing pain on the roadside for days until they finally perish. Establishing a shelter at this location made sense.
At VAFA, a 4,000 sq. meter facility, dogs are treated to regular meals, grooming, water, and humane treatment. Every dog is surgically altered to cut down on overpopulation. Trustworthy and deserving families that promise to give dogs good homes are allowed to adopt.
Staff and volunteers want to improve standards at the shelter as more funds become available. They take all possible measures to protect animal rights and shield dogs from abuse. Humane education is not popular yet in Iran but maybe one day it will be so that messages of kindness and compassion to all living things will be taught in schools.
In the meantime, the shelter that almost didn’t open will continue caring for as many stray dogs as their limited facility can take in.
Pet overpopulation and animal cruelty aren’t just Iranian problems. They affect animals all over including affluent Western countries. Concerned and caring animal lovers around the world unite for a common cause - to end animal suffering and to make it a better world.