UAE-based teacher shelters over 100 strays

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Fujairah
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 7, 2019 | Last updated on July 7, 2019 at 09.17 pm
Michelle Francis has rescued nearly 4,000 abandoned animals since she started her charity work 15 years ago. Photo by Rahul Gajjar
Michelle Francis has rescued nearly 4,000 abandoned animals since she started her charity work 15 years ago.- Photo by Rahul Gajjar

Rescuers like Michelle are finding it challenging to provide a good home for the animals.

With two broken legs and a crushed spine, Francis - a mixed breed desert pup - was left to die. But today, he is one of at least 114 rescue animals prancing around at a shelter in Fujairah.

Some 64 abandoned dogs and over 50 stray cats have found a home at the Animals and Us Rescue Centre, thanks to its founder-cum-fairy-godmother Michelle Francis.

In the last 15 years, Michelle has saved nearly 4,000 animals in the emirate.

A Grade 3 English teacher at GEMS Modern Academy, Michelle travels from Fujairah to Dubai every day. Along the way, she also stops at nearly 40 locations in industrial areas to provide fresh food and water to dogs.

Animals and Us is licensed under the Emirates Animal Welfare Society. Dogs like Francis are well cared for at her centre. However, with the rising number of abandoned pets in the UAE, rescuers like Michelle are finding it challenging to provide a good home for the animals.

Home for the homeless

Michelle was forced to move homes thrice in Fujairah, given the number of dogs and cats she was rescuing. She officially set up Animals and Us in 2010.

Today, the family lives in a secluded area in Fujairah's industrial area along with the nearly 100 animals. "Enclosed sheds are needed to keep the animals safe. However, we are facing financial challenges," she said.

"Our monthly expenditures, with vet bills, reach Dh40,000."

As the summer season peaks, Michelle is finding it harder to keep the animals alive. But with the support she has been getting from volunteers, the centre is getting by.

Dubai residents Fiona Myers Watson, Angharad Irving Phillip Jones, Kya Helsdito, Marie-laurie Lestienne of Doggy Be have been assisting Michelle since 2015.

"Big coolers have been donated to the facility by Lorraine Ludman at DLC events," Michelle said.

"Municipality officials have also been supportive, and the current facility that is now a home for these poor strays is rented from them."

Michelle and her group of volunteers currently have enough to feed animals in the facility, however, strays continue to face abuse, they said.

"Most of the dogs and cats are literally starving. People have beaten them with iron rods or sticks. Every day, a dog is killed by speeding cars," Michelle said.

Abandoned pets now a common sight: Rescuers

With rising temperatures and families leaving for the holidays, officials at the Emirates Animal Welfare Association (EAWS) said abandoned pets have become a common sight, especially in industrial areas across the country.

In Fujairah's industrial area alone, there are nearly 400 dogs that are in need of food, water, and shelter.

"Even if we were to rescue them, finding a home for them is challenging because people are hesitant to adopt mixed breeds," said Michelle Francis.

Sharon Vaz, a volunteer, said: "In the summer, we are recovering kittens and cats every day. We need people to foster, provide support with food, air-conditioners, and coolers."

What you can do to help save stray animals

>Leave water and food for them, if possible

>Contact local rescue centres so that the strays can be sheltered properly

>Contribute wet and dry food to the facilities, instead of dropping them on your own

>Contribute towards neutering pets



Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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