Time to check cruelty against animals

DUBAI — German Shepherd dog’s throat cut from ear to ear and crudely stitched up was barely enough to help him survive until he reached the arms of K9 Friends chairperson Jackie Ratcliffe. As she took him into the car to rush him to expert help, he edged forward and leaned his heavy head on her shoulder and let out a sigh.

By Zoe Sinclair

Published: Sat 14 Jul 2007, 8:35 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:08 AM

The cruelty that had been inflicted on that dog affected her more than any other during her time with K9 Friends. But now, the horrors barely surprise her.

The gruesome images of a dead dog hanging from a Satwa window recently sparked outrage across Dubai but Ratcliffe urged people not to look away saying it was only one incident and part of a much larger problem.

Physical abuse

While physical abuse and violence against animals is what shocks most people, Ratcliffe and organisations, including PETA, said the welfare of domestic animals in the country included the widespread issue of animals being abandoned and neglected, often by expatriates leaving the country and the lack of federal animal protection laws.

A Dubai Municipality spokesperson said the department was reducing the number of strays through euthanasia and re-homing but said it was rarely made aware of instances of physical abuse of animals.

Local laws allow for limited protection of animals, mainly farm animals. Although more encompassing federal government laws have been drafted and approved, they are yet to be officially enacted.

Ratcliffe said she and her colleagues had seen dogs that had been set on fire, burnt by battery acid, puppies with legs broken and dislocated from their hips because they had been picked up and swung.

“People need to see these things (hanging dog image), they happen all the time,” Ratcliffe said. “Somebody needs to do something about it.”

“We see one or two real cruelty cases a week. Most of the dogs we get have suffered some form of abuse. Maybe a dozen dogs a week — especially in summer,” she said.

Some are rehabilitated while others have to be euthanised.

“The biggest problem is nobody is accountable,” she said. “Nobody is willing to take the responsibility to sort out the problem.”

Ratcliffe said K9 Friends have been calling for animal protection laws since its inception 21 years ago.

PETA, which monitors issues of animal welfare across the globe and has high profile personalities pressing for awareness, said the UAE needed to speed up progress on welfare issues. “Of all the developed countries in the world, the UAE, with no animal protection laws, is one of the worst for animals,” a PETA representative said. “The UAE has the economic power to implement and strictly enforce animal protection laws.”

Federal laws

PETA said the law should include licensing and mandatory spaying and neutering.

Dubai Municipality veterinary specialist Dr Hisham Ahmed Fahami said there were local laws in place for the protection of animals. However, they mainly covered farm animals.

He said federal laws that have been drafted would be more comprehensive regarding animal protection. Dr Fahami said the department had caught 6,097 cats in 2006, neutering and releasing 1,200 and euthanising the rest.

Also, 397 dogs were caught, of which 42 were returned to their owners after they paid fines, and the remaining dogs were euthanised.

Stray cats

“We have reduced the number of stray cats quite considerably,” he said.

The Dubai Municipality and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding early this year to bring Dubai’s animal welfare in line with international standards.

This week WSPA and the municipality held a workshop for officers to gain additional skills for humane animal control to help curb the stray and feral animal population.

Pet Zone Chalet manager Samer Ayach has to deal with abandoned animals far too often.

The company, which has 180 kennels and 50 cattery rooms, had more than 40 animals abandoned at the facility during the last summer.

“It’s the main problem we face,” he said. “At the end of last summer 20 to 25 dogs were left behind by their owners and 15 to 20 cats.”

While the company has pet owners leave credit card details, often the owner has left the country and deactivated the account.

“Sometimes we are faced with boxes of puppies and kittens left at the door,” he said.

Ayach said the puppies and kittens are vaccinated and all the animals cared for during which time the staff try to find homes the animals, either through window advertisements or K9 and Feline Friends.

But one dog, two and a half year old Saint Bernard, has been cared for by the facility for seven months and is yet to find a home.

PETA said the region’s pet owners needed to take responsibility for their animals.

“Both expats and locals share the blame for the abandoned animal problem in Dubai,” the spokesperson said.

“The transient nature of Dubai facilitates the abandoned animals problem and the country needs to put up barriers to curb this.”

But until animal protection laws were put in place and awareness grew, K9 Friends and other organisations could only continue to help out as much as they could.

Only last week a pitbull was found that had been used as a fighting dog. Its ears had been cut off and it was covered in scars from fights.

“It used to be quite common but it’s gone quite underground now,” Ratcliffe said.

The pitbull had to be euthanised.

Acid attack

However, the dog that had suffered battery acid attack had amazed the group with its survival and friendliness towards people.

“It’s the loveliest dog despite everything that happened to it,” she said. Residents were encouraged to contact the municipality if there was a stray animal problem in their area or if they were aware of any instances of animal cruelty. Free numbers: 04-289 1196 (during office hours), 04-2232323 (emergency number)

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