The cat man of Aleppo and Nina Duchess of Hamilton
Mohammad Alaa Jaleel looks after more than a hundred stray cats either abandoned or left with him when their human carer givers have fled from Aleppo during the war in Syria. Much of the publicity seems to suggest that this is strange. (In the same way that the media thought it strange that refugees would bring their dogs with them to safety.
However, in the course of research for my forthcoming book The Great Cat and Dog Massacre I came across many examples of people who took in companion animals during the war. Thus people would bring biscuits, Oxo cubes, dog meat, and kitchen scraps to Buster Lloyd-Jones to help him look after his wartime “evacuation sanctuary” of around 200 cats and dogs, and monkeys, goats, two donkeys, and a horse.
Nina, Duchess of Hamilton, took in Londoners’ animals to her sanctuary at Ferne, then near Salisbury. Nina described the animals she evacuated as ‘infinitely precious to their owners, who are in very poor circumstances; sometimes it is their only friend, and whether they have children or not of their own, these animals are like children to them.’
In Bolton Mr. Bernard of the Lido cinema organized 900 homes for evacuated animals. The Tail-Waggers Club that had so enthusiastically signed up nearly half a million of the nation’s dogs in the early 1930s was “inundated” with letters from people offering good homes to unwanted dogs. This included Miss Barnett of North London, who was a feline rather than a canine enthusiast. She had found a home for 22 evacuated cats and issued each of them a free collar and identity discs that made them, slightly oddly, members of the Tail-Waggers Club.