Animal lover devotes her life to helping dogs and cats in Tunisia 

Animal News : Animal lover devotes her life to helping dogs and cats in Tunisia 
Houda Bouchahda pets a dog at a house-turned-shelter, Hammamet, Tunisia, credit: Reuters/Jihed Abidellaoui

The 42-year-old Houda Bouchahda has transformed her house in Tunisia into an animal shelter with hundreds of cats and dogs. Every day, she tends to injured cats and dogs: “This is a relationship of love, friendship, a mother’s bond with her children.”

“Currently, I have 400 cats and 22 dogs. I am trying to provide for them what they do not have on the street: safety, food, warmth, and clean water, meaning they have food for breakfast and dinner,” Houda tells the news agency Reuters.

“I provided them with this refuge because the street did not show mercy to them, nor did the people. Even while they are on the street, they were exposed to a lot of danger and harm, all because of people,” Houda says.

She receives support from individuals, associations, and the owners of the house that she has converted into a shelter. In 2023, a crowdfunding made it possible for her to move with her animals into a better house.

Caring for so many animals is exhausting and brings a lot of guilt, she explains. “No matter what I do for them, I still feel that I am not doing enough. When the resources are not available, and a cat gets sick, and I have to take it to the vet, and I can’t – I become psychologically exhausted, and I find myself neglecting others.”

Bouchahda describes receiving criticism from family members and even strangers online for her mission but adds that she refuses to give up on the animals.

“My goal in life is to save all the cats in Tunisia, particularly those on the street who deserve care. However, I won’t bring in every cat I encounter on the street, only those needing it—those with disabilities, sickness, accidents, or requiring medication.”

Stray animals in Tunisia

There are no specific laws protecting stray animals in Tunisia. Common sights in urban and rural areas include stray cats and dogs and working animals like donkeys and mules. These animals are often seen carrying heavy loads under poor conditions.

In previous years, authorities in various cities initiated campaigns to kill stray dogs, a move condemned by animal rights groups as barbaric. They advocate for humane solutions like the Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) method. However, efforts to establish shelters and sterilization programs are challenged by financial and medical limitations.

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