Rescuers Come To Mideast Animals' Aid


You know how after you've been abandoned by your family, hit by a car, kidnapped, and flown to a foreign country, sometimes you just don't feel like being held?

Well, it's been that kind of month for a little cat name Soldier, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's Assignment America.

Soldier got his name because he was found during the war in Lebanon, near a soldier. A car had just broken his leg.

For Joel Kanaan, one of the rescuers and co-founders of Beirut's Humane Society, it was a fairly typical stop in what had become a booming business.

"Many people, foreigners, had to abandon the country and they weren't allowed to take their pets," Joel says. "So most people either locked them in their homes or just released them in the streets."

In one month, Joel says the number of homeless pets in Lebanon doubled, and she had no place to put them. Her dog shelter had been damaged by a bomb and the cats were running over each other. But then, the phone rang.

"It's a dream. We couldn't believe it," Joel said.

On the other end of the phone was an offer from America to airlift nearly 300 of the animals. They arrived in the U.S. just last week. The operation was sponsored by a pet sanctuary out of Utah called Best Friends.

Elissa Jones, of Best Friends, says eventually most of these animals will be adopted out. Most are very well behaved and perfectly healthy. Pretty soon, even the injured Soldier will be back in business.

A veterinary orthopedic specialist will take care of Soldier. "He'll get what he needs," Ellie says.

Of course, none of this comes cheap. This project will end up costing about $300,000, or $1,000 per pet. That's a lot. Some might say that's ridiculous, but the people at Best Friends say there's a greater purpose to all this.

"Yeah, we're not simply talking about rescuing 300 dogs and cats," says Michael Mountain, director of Best Friends. "We're talking about putting the country's only humane society back on the map."

Joel says that "without their help, I don't think we could have made it." Joel says she can now focus on rebuilding Lebanon's Humane Society.

"I never thought in my life that our animals are going to become American," Joel says.

If you're interested in adopting, or if you just want to donate to the cause, you can find Best Friends at