6 min read

Horrible Zoo Puts Dogs And Cats Behind Bars

One woman was disgusted by what she saw — and decided to save them all.

When Colleen Hegarty went to Bahrain, a tiny country off the coast of Saudi Arabia, on a Fulbright scholarship, she had no idea she'd end up bringing a dog back home to Florida with her.

But during her 10-month stay in Bahrain, Hegarty discovered Cooper in the most shocking place. He hadn't been a street dog or a shelter dog.

Cooper before and after Hagarty rescued and adopted him. | Colleen Hegarty

He was a zoo dog.

"In late April of 2016, I stumbled upon this zoo," Hegarty told The Dodo. "I was initially shocked upon entering the zoo - animal abuse had been completely normalized and visitors not only enjoyed, but made animals' conditions worse by banging on cages, throwing rubbish at animals, provoking animals and poking animals with sticks through the cages."

But most surprising of all at the Arman Zoo were the cats and dogs in cages, just beside caged baboons and alligators.

Jasmine was rescued and adopted by a family in Bahrain. | Colleen Hegarty

"Cats, ribs visible and missing large patches of fur, were starving and clinging on to the sides of the cages, begging for a morsel of food," Hegarty said. "Large-breed dogs hid in the backs of their cages hoping to not attract attention while visitors paid the equivalent of $3 to 'walk' smaller breeds around."

Temperatures were scorching and the dogs and cats were often seen panting. "The skin on their paws was burnt and their tongues hung out without any access to water," Hegarty said.

Guillermo was rescued and now lives with his forever family in Virginia. | Colleen Hagarty

When Hegarty spoke to the zoo manager, she convinced him to let her facilitate adoptions for the zoo cats and dogs. The manager agreed first to let the "mixed breeds" go, since he couldn't profit from breeding them anyway.

Hegarty ended up rescuing all the 24 cats out of the zoo, and 20 of the dogs, and adopting them out as pets.

One of the dogs still suffering at the zoo | Colleen Hagarty

But before she could do that, she had to get them medical care. She raised funds to spay and neuter the animals and treat them for illness and injury. "The dogs taken out of the zoo had tick fever and were covered in ticks and matted," Hegarty said. "Some dogs were malnourished, and had colitis from severe cases of worms; some had to have oral surgery on their rotten teeth."

Many of the dogs also had broken knee caps, broken tails, broken jaws, and severe anxiety and food aggression disorders stemming from the abuse they suffered.

Graciela is now up for adoption in Florida. This is her when she was still at the zoo. | Colleen Hegarty

The cats "were so skinny that you could feel every bone in their spine and ribs," Hegarty said. "They were starving and developed mouth ulcers as a result. They were malnourished. They were covered in fleas and anemic from the fleas and in addition suffered from other conditions like ringworm and eye infections."

Some didn't make it.

One of the dogs still suffering at the zoo | Colleen Hegarty

Miraculously enough, thanks to Hegarty, every single surviving cat has now been rescued from the zoo. Eighteen cats and five dogs found homes in Bahrain, and those who didn't were flown to the U.S. Four dogs are still up for adoption in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami, Florida, area.

Estrella before and after her rescue. She now lives with her forever family in Virginia. | Colleen Hegarty

But there's still work to be done for the other animals Hegarty had no choice but to leave behind, including the wild animals she couldn't get adopted out - for now.

One of the dogs still suffering at the zoo | Colleen Hegarty

"Animal rights in Bahrain are nonexistent and the government has not been responsive in dealing with the issues at the zoo," Hegarty said. "Since the government is unresponsive, I'm trying to raise awareness of the conditions at this zoo and prove to the government that the international community cares about these animals."

Graciela is now up for adoption in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. | Colleen Hegarty