Birmingham & Black Country

Dogs of war: The British woman rescuing Afghanistan's hounds

While attention is turning to Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan, some Britons say they are in the country to stay.

Their numbers include Wolverhampton woman Louise Hastie.

Miss Hastie, 41, who previously served in the armed forces, manages an animal clinic for the British animal rescue charity Nowzad Dogs.

She said the organisation has rehomed about 650 dogs to soldiers around the world, as well as to homes in Afghanistan.

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The charity was set up by former Royal Marine Sgt Pen Farthing in 2007.

While serving in Nowzad in Helmand province in 2006, Sgt Farthing broke up an organised dog fight, befriending one of the dogs and naming it after the town.

He then started a charity to help soldiers get dogs they had adopted back home and now operates what he says is the only official animal shelter in Afghanistan.

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The charity made its name in a number of high-profile cases.

In 2011, it helped the family of a Warwickshire soldier shot dead in Afghanistan bring home the stray dog he cared for.

The family of Pte Conrad Lewis, of 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, said he had really loved Peg, a three-year-old mongrel, and had written about her extensively.

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Miss Hastie said she has had to "perform miracles" to get pets out of warzones and back to the soldiers who adopted them.

And the charity's work is not restricted to dogs. Last year, it helped raise funds to get a cat named AK to a security guard in Buckinghamshire.

Ben Soden adopted AK after seeing him being tortured.

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Miss Hastie first started rehoming animals when she worked in Iraq as a contractor.

She spent 10 years with the Staffordshire Regiment, serving in Iraq as a reservist in 2004.

While in Iraq, she rescued a cat - and then went through a "nightmare" to get it back to the UK.

"I didn't want anyone else to have to go through that," she said.

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Miss Hastie found herself receiving emails from soldiers in Iraq asking for help to rehome dogs they had befriended while serving there.

Her mum told her about Nowzad Dogs and she gave up her job to work for them full-time.

She now lives and works in Kabul, sharing her home at the charity's clinic with some 20 dogs, as well as about 20 cats.

A further 100 dogs live at the charity's shelter outside the city.

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Alongside Miss Hastie, a team of Afghan staff includes two full-time vets as well as two part-time female vets - thought to be the first female practising vets in Afghanistan, with most going into more academic roles.

She said the charity has received a "great reception" from Afghans, with local people turning to it for help.

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"One Afghan woman brought a litter of five puppies here. Their mother had died when they were just three days old and she wanted them to be looked after," she said.

"One dog found by an Afghan man had a broken leg. Another had been cut up on razor wire - it was an Afghan man who found him and brought him to us."

The charity helps people adopt the dogs, organising the lengthy task of getting them to their new families.

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All dogs taken to Nowzad are vaccinated and given full health-checks, while puppies are kept until they have been fully vaccinated.

Miss Hastie admitted waving goodbye to rehomed animals is upsetting but added: "I'm just so happy they're going to a family where they are going to be loved and want for nothing."

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The centre's dogs include Noel, the charity's "Christmas Day dog" who was brought in with a badly injured leg that had to be amputated.

But Miss Hastie said she had seen relatively few instances of deliberate cruelty to animals.

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The UK and the US are preparing to withdraw the last remaining troops from Afghanistan by December.

But Miss Hastie said it will be "business as usual" for the charity.

"It's about promoting animal welfare in Afghanistan, and responsible pet ownership," she said.

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