Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

Man Dedicates His Life To Rescuing Cats Left Behind In Syrian War Zone

In early September, six civilians died in a bombing raid of the Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

The next week, Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel went to the affected town of Kafr Nabl and began looking for animals in need of rescue.

When evacuation warnings go out, it is often the house pets that get left behind in the shuffle.

Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

It's Aljaleel’s mission to collect up all of the animals, mostly displaced house cats and strays, and take them to his sanctuary on the outskirts of Aleppo.

Before the war began, he worked as an electrician in east Aleppo. Though he had the chance to flee, he chose to stay and help.

Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

Aljaleel began driving an ambulance and also started feeding stray cats around the city. He became so well known for this that locals and media outlets began calling him the Cat Man of Aleppo.

In 2015, he met Alessandra Abidin, who shared his passion for animals and helped him raise funds to buy land for a sanctuary.

The House of Cats Ernesto was named after Alessandra's beloved late cat.

Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

The sanctuary didn't just provide a safe haven for as many as 170 cats, but it also had a community area and playground for the local children. When the war hit the power grid, Aljaleel installed generators.

The situation became dire in 2016, when Aleppo was under heavy bombardment.

Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

While still working as a first responder — Aljaleel's ambulance was bombed five times, thankfully when he wasn't in it — he and his group of helpers kept providing food and water to the animals, as well as to the surrounding neighborhood.

Sadly, the sanctuary itself was bombed.

Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

Many animals died in the initial blast and more when phosphorus gas bombs were dropped. Aljaleel collected up as many of the survivors as he could.

In an emotional video, he told his Facebook followers what was happening and apologized for failing them all.

But they didn't agree that he had failed.

Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

While Aljaleel found temporary homes for the surviving cats and worked in a refugee camp, the Facebook group found new rural land and donated towards its purchase.

Since then, the new Ernestos Paradise has become home to 200 cats, 4 monkeys, doves, rabbits, dogs, and even a horse. In 2018, they saved and sheltered the surviving animals of the Aleppo zoo until they could be transported to safety.

They've even built another park for refugee children.

Facebook | Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria

Besides getting a safe place to play and be kids, Pet Therapy sessions take place daily. Because we all know how amazing animals are at making us feel better.

Though the country is still in turmoil, Aljaleel and his growing group are dedicated to continuing their mission.

h/t: House of Cats Ernesto, The Dodo

Filed Under: