News archive - 2009
Sandbag and friends come home19 Oct 2009
We’ve done it! Thank you to everyone who has generously supported the appeal to rescue Sandbag and pals from Iraq; they have arrived on British soil.
The fundraising appeal has raised over £13,500, which not only allowed us to rescue Sandbag, his son Dirtbag and Hesco the cat, but also enabled us to help Royal, a previous soldier’s mascot from the same military base in Um Qasa.
Steve Goody, Blue Cross director of companion animal welfare, said: "We’re overjoyed that Sandbag and his friends have come back to the UK to a safe and secure future. We’re so grateful to the thousands of people who have supported the appeal and helped us raise enough funds to give these animals the chance of the loving homes they deserve.”
The animals arrived at Heathrow airport on 1 October and, due to strict animal health standards, they were transported directly to quarantine kennels in Gloucestershire, where they will live in secure kennels, each with large exercise runs and cosy sleeping areas with central heating.
Defra requirements mean that they must remain in quarantine for six months to ensure they are free from rabies and other contagious diseases. After that time it is hoped they will be found suitable homes. Several offers have already been made by British soldiers from the Queen’s Royal Hussars regiment who were previously based in Iraq, but this will depend on their whereabouts when the animals are released and future army commitments.
Emma Simpson from the SWHP has been liaising with the soldiers at their base in Germany and hopes to arrange for them to visit the quarantine kennels. She said: “It took me a while to get in touch with the troops as they’d been out on patrol in Germany. When I finally got through to them they couldn’t believe that Sandbag was coming to the UK. They said it was a huge boost to morale to hear that he and the other animals were safe.”
After their rescue in August, Sandbag and friends were cared for at a safe house in Baghdad, thanks to support from local animal charity Baghdad Cat Rescue. Louise Hastie, a former British soldier who runs the charity, co-ordinated the animals’ care in Baghdad, as well as arranging their flights home.
Louise said: “The rescue effort was a huge ordeal but I know from personal experience how important these animals are to the soldiers who were based out there with them. The conditions here are extremely hazardous for pets, with the extreme heat, lack of food and the risk of being used as target practice. I'm so glad they're all back in the UK where I know they’ll be safe and happy.”
Our senior press officer Laura Dobson went to visit the animals in quarantine recently and they are all settling in very well, enjoying the relative luxury of the kennel environment over life on the streets! See for yourselves by watching this video taken at the kennels, courtesy of the British Forces Broadcasting Service.
After six months in Precious Pets quarantine kennels in Gloucestershire, stray dogs Sandbag, Dirtbag, Royal and Hesco the cat are finally settling into their first British homes after being rescued from Iraq last year.
Former mascots to British soldiers, the animals were left to an uncertain fate when troops pulled out of Iraq in July 2009 and were forced to leave them behind.
Their plight reached animal lovers across the world and 72,000 people joined a Facebook campaign to bring the pets back to the UK where they could enjoy a safe and secure future.
After a 6,000-strong Number 10 petition for the government to provide funds was unsuccessful, The Blue Cross and the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies (SWHP) stepped in to launch a fundraising appeal.
In just over two months the appeal raised over £14,000 and, with the support of Iraq-based charity Baghdad Cat Rescue, the animals were flown to the UK in October.
Defra requirements meant that Sandbag, Dirtbag, Royal and Hesco were placed in quarantine for six months to ensure they were free from rabies and other contagious diseases.
During this time they were also neutered and treated for minor ailments. Now the animals are fit, healthy and at last able to enjoy the love of a secure home.
Huge thanks to everyone who donated funds to make this possible, and the following people in particular:
Emma Simpson from the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies, who co-ordinated the rescue efforts from the UK
Louise Hastie from Baghdad Cat Rescue, who cared for the animals in Iraq and brought them back to the UK
Steve and Paula Cullis at Precious Pets, who have been outstanding in their care of all the animals during the quarantine period
**Watch this space for updates as the animals settle into their new homes**