6 min read

Cat Sanctuary In War-Torn City Just Got Bombed

They need our help now more than ever.

A cat sanctuary where hundreds of animals and dozens of people have found refuge and love in the midst of war and disorder has been bombed, according to an update on social media today.

"I'm so sorry to tell you that today our shelter was bomb[ed]," Alessandra Abidin, who runs the private Facebook group for Il Gattaro d'Aleppo, a cat sanctuary in Aleppo, Syria, wrote today. From her home in Italy, every day, Abidin updates fans of the sanctuary across the world. "Some cats and our beautiful dog Hope is dead," she said.

The cat sanctuary made international headlines when Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, an ambulance driver also known as the cat man of Aleppo, was discovered feeding and taking care of as many stray cats as he could.

There are so far no reports that Alaa is hurt.

Alaa has also provided a space for the children of Aleppo to find joy while their city crumbles. Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, has been an almost constant battleground since 2012 as opposing forces have tried to gain control of the city. To save their own lives, people fled the city of Aleppo - an estimated 40,000 of them.

"When people left, the cats started coming to me," Alaa told BBC News.

Alaa started out with about 20 cats who were left behind as people ran for their lives, in addition to the strays he'd taken in. A year later there were over 100 - and Alaa started the sanctuary. Now, after today's bombing, it is uncertain what the future of the sanctuary will be.

Another page, which supports Alaa's candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for animals and people in the region, posted video of smoke billowing from a near skyline and the sounds of bombs going off. "Excuse us today we can not show you the cats," the caption read.

"We need to tell Alaa that we'll support him if he finds a somewhat safer place," one commenter said. "We all knew this could happen. The most important thing is for Alaa, his brother, helpers and children to be safe. It's a vicious war."

The extent of the damage is still unknown. We will update you when we have more information.

If you'd like to help, you can request to join the private Facebook group and request donation details via message. If you have the email address to donate, for the security of the sanctuary, the group asks that you do not mention "Aleppo" or "Syria" in the note and that you do not share it with anyone else.

Recently, when a bomb fell near the sanctuary, The Dodo asked what people could do for the Alaa and the sanctuary, and Abidin replied: "For now just pray and support him."

Update: Abidin reports that Alaa's home and his ambulance was bombed. Alaa and his family are fine. The animals who were killed are the two cats and one dog mentioned in the article. The article has also been updated to reflect important information on keeping the donation address private.