(and goats and monkeys and reptiles and hyenas)
Two new SDHS department leads’ love for each other started with a love for stray animals
Ayeshah Al-Humaidhi and John Peaveler’s unconventional love story began in 2005, thanks to two litters of stray puppies in Kuwait. She was planning to create the country’s first-ever animal shelter. He was a government contractor who befriended stray dogs and had found himself caring for 15 puppies in a warehouse.
“I got caught and was given 48 hours to get them out of there,” Peaveler says.
Someone told him to call Al-Humaidhi, who’d returned to Kuwait after earning her master’s degree in Pennsylvania, where she’d also volunteered at animal shelters. “They said there was this Kuwaiti woman crazy enough to form an animal organization,” she says. The puppies became the first residents of the Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and Their Habitat, a shelter Al-Humaidhi and Peaveler built together from scratch and ran for 10 years.
After first caring for animals in her parents’ home, they broke ground in the desert an hour away from the nearest city.
“As soon as we opened the doors, all kinds of animals started showing up on the doorstep: injured birds, illegally smuggled wildlife, farm animals, reptiles,” she says.
They even hand-raised a striped hyena.
“Early on, it was a comedy of errors with the animals escaping,” he adds. Colleagues at first, they later fell in love and got married.
The shelter eventually expanded to a staff of 15, and Al-Humaidhi expanded her impact by negotiating with government officials to create a wide range of services for animals, including a companion animal shelter, a farm and equine sanctuary, wildlife rehabilitation and stray animal management.
Over several years, Peaveler deepened his skills by working for Humane Society International and other organizations, doing disaster and cruelty response and teaching animal handling and capture. Al-Humaidhi continued running their shelter and made strides in animal welfare, negotiating with the Kuwaiti government to create a network of animal services.
In 2015 the couple moved to Vermont, where Al-Humaidhi directed a local humane society. Then last year they both applied to work at San Diego Humane Society. “Though we started working in animal welfare at the same time, we’ve taken very different paths, so we have a lot to talk about!” Al-Humaidhi says. They moved here with their children, Dalal, 10, and James, 7; she became SDHS’s Oceanside Campus director, and he an emergency services administrative lieutenant (and later the head of SDHS’s Emergency Response Team—read more on page 32). They now live in San Marcos with two dogs, a cat and two rats, all rescues.
If their past work is any indication of what’s to come, the couple could make quite an impact. “When we started in Kuwait, animals were not valued,” Al-Humaidhi says. “We started a movement in the hearts and minds of people who will continue to push for improved laws and more humane practices.” Now, she says SDHS is the type of organization she always aspired to be a part of. “With its comprehensive list of services that support animals and their families, it aligns with my values of wanting to be a vehicle for compassionate service and not one of judgement.”