The dogs and cats in the areas hit by rockets are not immune to the crisis in their midst. According to animal welfare organizations, many have been severely traumatized by the noise and force of the exploding Katyushas.
Many animals are roaming the deserted streets lost, disoriented and without food or water. In their hurry to leave their homes, many families have abandoned the animals in their care.
"Anyone walking in the streets can see these animals' suffering," said Tali Lavie, spokeswoman for HaKol Chai: Concern for Helping Animals in Israel. "Dogs who lived as members of families for 10 years are suddenly homeless, and they are terrified, hungry and shaking."
"Maybe some of these families thought they would be returning very soon, and then couldn't," she said. "Either way, it's a huge problem right now, and it will only get worse as time goes on."
Lavie said HaKol Chai was equipped to provide appropriate foster homes for family pets, and that the public's response had been overwhelming. "Since the start of the violence, the organization has received hundreds of calls from people eager to volunteer, adopt animals, or provide foster homes for pets until their families are able to care for them again," she said.
HaKol Chai has been urging residents of the North to call instead of leaving their pets behind to an uncertain fate. "We have enough foster homes," Lavie said. "The problem is that not enough people are calling to make arrangements."
Volunteers from HaKol Chai visit the hardest-hit towns of the North each night, looking for animals in need of care and supplying them with food and water.
"The rescue operation continued even with rockets falling only few meters from our volunteers' car," Lavie said. "Our volunteers took cover when an alarm sounded, only to find that a rocket landed right next to the car."
Since the beginning of the conflict, the organization has sent more than 12 tons of food for cats and dogs north, as well as water bowls, vaccinations and other supplies.
HaKol Chai has also responded to requests for food from municipalities such as Kiryat Shmona, Tiberias and Ma'aleh Yosef that have run out of supplies in their shelters.
Last week, the organization received a call regarding an injured dog in Nahariya. "We found him there in critical condition," said Lavie. "He was bleeding and dehydrated, and had been injured by a rocket. We rushed him to a vet, who treated him. During the weekend we located his family and reunited them."
According to Lavie, the organization has also dealt with several cases of abuse. "We rescued two dogs from an [abandoned] house where they were tied so tightly, they couldn't lie down," she said. "Every time a rocket exploded, the dogs would jump and choke themselves."
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