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Gaza animal shelter uses old toys to help wounded pets walk

THE STAR – An animal shelter in the Gaza Strip is using the wheels of toy cars and kids’ bicycles to build mobility devices for disabled cats and dogs, helping them walk, run and play again despite a lack of access to specialised prosthetics.

Workers at the Palestinian enclave’s Sulala Animal Rescue society are working to fit some 32 cats and dogs with the makeshift wheelchairs or with artificial limbs made from recycled wood and metal.

“They (the animals) get exhausted when they are paralysed, so we give them something that allows them to walk, so they would feel normal. Animals have feelings, too,” Said Al-Aer, who helps run the shelter, said.

One of the dogs, Lucy, whose hind legs were paralysed in a car accident, was given a wheelchair built using the rainbow-coloured rubber wheels of a discarded children’s bike.

With the assistance of volunteers, Lucy slips her upper body through a harness connecting a metal frame to the wheels. Her back legs sit comfortably above the back of the frame. And off she goes.

It was a freezing moment for Lucy, a paralysed dog, when animal caretakers put a wheelchair on her to help her move again. PHOTO: THE STAR

“It is adjustable to the dog’s size,” said Ismail Al-Aer, Said’s uncle, who designed the device.

Ismail created a similar apparatus for cats using the small wheels of a toy race car. The animal shelter, in Gaza City, has received donations from charities in Australia and Britain.

There are no specialised medical centres for animals in Gaza, which is run by the militant group Hamas and is held under an Israeli-led blockade.

While it does have two prosthesis centres, they are busy providing artificial limbs to some 1,600 amputees in the Strip, including many who were shot during border clashes with Israeli troops.

But the centres do not offer services to animals, making the shelter’s initiative all the more important, Gaza veterinarian Bashar Shehada said.

“Amputations drop, as well as ulcers and wounds that result from animals crawling,” Shehada said.