Five minutes with Nowzad co-founders Pen Farthing and Hannah Surowinski


26 September 2018
The co-founders of Nowzad, Afghanistan’s first dedicated animal charity, tell us about the dogs who inspire their work.

Nowzad was founded by British marine Pen Farthing, and his girlfriend Hannah Surowinski, in 2007, to help all animals caught in the conflict in Afghanistan. It was named after one of Pen’s first rescue dogs — a stray involved in an organised dog fight — later named Nowzad.

The charity now cares for over 150 animals of all shapes and species, rescued from the streets of Kabul.

Q) What projects are Nowzad working on at the moment?

A) Hannah: “We’re running educational programmes and vet training in Afghanistan, and we’ve also had an influx of kittens — one of the cats we rescued gave birth to six kittens in the back of a taxi on her way to our clinic! We’ve also recently opened a donkey sanctuary.”

Pen: “Funnily enough, one of our guys at the donkey sanctuary has a dog who absolutely loves the donkeys, and thinks he’s one of them!”

Q) What changes would you like to see for dogs in Afghanistan?

A) Pen: “For us, it would be the expansion of our trap-neuter-return programme to help combat rabies in Afghanistan, as the dogs are still breeding and spreading rabies further. But it all comes down to cost, and we could definitely use some more funds.”

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Hannah: “After 40 years of conflict, animal welfare is well down the list of priorities in Afghanistan, understandably, but slowly attitudes are starting to change. People are starting to come forward and offer our animals a home, and we’ve got a group of young women who volunteer at our clinic once or twice a week, helping us out grooming and training the dogs, which is amazing.”

Q) Tell us about the most special dog you’ve rescued.

A) Hannah: “For us both, it would have to be Justin Bieber, or JB for short! He was living on the streets and was being fed by a cigarette seller. Then one day, the seller contacted us absolutely devastated, as JB had been hit by a car. We took him in but, sadly, he had to have his leg amputated. But he’s a real character and we’ve decided we’ve got room for him at home with us in the UK!”

Q) What do you love the most about dogs?

A) Pen: “They never judge you; you come home from work and, if you’re a bit busy, they just wait for you patiently. They love being around you, no matter what mood you’re in.”

Hannah: “They’re so trusting; some of the dogs who come to us have been through the most horrific situations, but they’re so resilient. Our residents inspire us every day.”