Laila had been studying in Washington, DC, USA and was moving back to Kuwait with her two year old cat, Winston. She made sure to bring his completed paperwork (USDA IHC) from his veterinarian that stated he was healthy and approved for travel. Winston was with her at all times in the comfort of the cabin of the Lufthansa flight and not in the cargo.
When Laila landed in Kuwait, she went through customs smoothly and picked up all her bags from the baggage claim area until an airport customs officer stopped her and told her that she had to leave Winston at the airport so that he could get checked by the airport vet, as per legal requirements for every animal entering the country (despite USDA approval). They promised he would be delivered to her at the cargo terminal in 2 hours. She spent some time trying to convince them to not take him away from her and showed him all the paperwork proving he was healthy, but they wouldn't budge and said that this was the procedure for every animal that arrives the country.
She stayed at National Aviation Services (NAS) in the cargo terminal, for 3 hours until she was informed that Winston was missing. According to NAS, Winston escaped from his carrier after leaving customs to go to the “vet”; he jumped out of the transportation trolley, and ran away around the cargo area/landing zone. She knew how afraid Winston was of strangers, and the only person he was comfortable with was herself. Laila also knew what type of places he would likely hide in. She begged them to let her go to the area he escaped to but they refused, saying only people from NAS and civil aviation had access to the area.
Laila spent two nights and half a day begging managers and officials at the airport to let her through but they all refused. She was told that she would get security camera footage and that employees were searching for him, but all she got was empty promises. She even printed and distributed flyers throughout the NAS facility, with pictures of Winston and including a monetary reward for anyone that found him. After 3 days of trying to get through, Laila was informed by NAS that Winston was found dead from heatstroke. Laila retrieved Winston's body after 4 hours of waiting at the NAS’ facility.
Throughout this horrifying journey, Laila had discovered a smelly, dirty, and cramped hall where they kept “live animals” with no air conditioning in 114 F degree weather. In one of the rooms, she found Winston’s dumped pet carrier, even though she was told that they were using the carrier to lure Winston inside. She also met with the “vet” at NAS, who claimed that he has not had an animal come to his office in YEARS.
Winston was not the first pet to runaway and/or die in NAS’ facility according to several rescues and pet travelers. Laila is currently meeting with a lawyer with plans to sue NAS and obtain #JusticeForWinston and all the other animals that died under NAS' care.
Laila is an animal rescuer. She has been to several rescue seminars, interned at a well known rescue in Washington DC, and has fostered several kittens. She wants to save as many Kuwaiti animals' lives as she can in Winston’s name, under the “Winston Memorial Foundation”, but will need funds to do so.
This Go Fund Me campaign will not only help pay for legal fees in suing NAS, but also allow her to set up a foundation in Winston's honor so that no other Kuwaiti pets and pet parents go through what she endured. Further, Laila will continue the push for the implementation of animal right laws in Kuwait which is an ongoing issue that has not yet been resolved. This would raise awareness regarding the neglect and poor treatment of animals in Kuwait whether they are stray or handled and kenneled at NAS.
Please donate to our campaign to remember Winston, and to ensure no Kuwaiti animal ever dies in vain again. Thank you! With a heavy heart at the loss of Winston, we are seeking $15,000 to proceed with her mission and to seek #JusticeForWinston. Thank you, to all the animal lovers throughout the world, to all who follow Leila on Instagram @leya_and_winston and to all those who know that animals are worthy of being treated with respect and love.