Navaz Bustani writes about her visit to the VAFA Shelter in Hashtgerd last year:I was fortunate enough to visit the Shelter twice; once early morning and once at dinner time, both in the midst of an extremely hot summer. The Shelter is in the middle of nowhere; about one and a half hours drive from Tehran en route to Qazvin. It is a plot of land; electricity is supplied through a generator and water via massive water tanks; 3 of which need to be bought every week.I am guessing the founder, Ms Fatemeh Motamedi, never dreamt there would be more than a hundred or so dogs when she got the place going in 2004. The Shelter is now home to 400 plus dogs.









I met four staff; Mr Ali Sani who is the current manager, Mr Karam who is in charge of feeding and general upkeep, and two young Afghan boys, Mohammed and Ahmad, who work and live there. All four can be seen in the same order, right to left, posing with doggies Meshki and Sohrab.


Sadly I did not get to meet Ms Farah Azari who volunteers her free time at the Shelter; hopefully next time.

All the dogs are given full vaccinations, micro chipped and neutered / spayed. Some are fortunate enough to find a good home, whereas the vast majority will stay in the Shelter for life. On my second trip, it was a joy to see a young woman come and take a puppy home. She, her family and her house had been vetted before hand and the staff will make random visits to make sure that the dog is being taken good care off; as they do with all their adopted dogs.

No dog is put down unless it is absolutely beyond saving. This means that the Shelter has all sorts and ages ranging from puppies to very old and three legged to almost blind dogs. They somehow all live together and respect each other and get along . . . most of the time. There are some bullies and some incredibly mischievous dogs and fights do break out from time to time. Some newcomers have to be kept separate until they get used to being with other dogs. Some are fearful of humans and their trust is gradually won.








Even after having visited the place, it is difficult to understand how a small handful of staff take care of so many dogs. Just the preparation of dinner takes all day; they start cooking the food in huge pots in the morning, add bits and pieces during the course of the day and then let it cool down before feeding 400 dogs around 6:00 pm. Extra effort is made to ensure that the older and weaker dogs are fed separately, so that no dog goes without.

The Shelter tries to limit the number of dogs, as it is full to bursting point. Yet people keep dropping off puppies and injured strays and the staff just can’t say ‘no’. .. this place strives to keep each one alive at any cost. I hope that with our help they will be able to continue doing so.

To conclude, the place is a bit of a madhouse. Too many dogs and too little space and an incredible amount of love between the dogs and the dogs and the dogs and those who have devoted their lives to taking care of them.

I can confidently say that each and every penny of donations received has gone towards a worthy cause and will be put to good use.


Founded in 2004, the Vafa Animal Shelter in the town of Hashtgerd, about an hour and a half west of Tehran is the first animal shelter in Iran. We are dedicated to providing help and shelter to injured and homeless animals in Iran. The Vafa shelter is a non-government charity organization relying solely on private donations and volunteers.

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