UAE: Abandoned pet cases on the rise post Covid, say animal rescue groups

Volunteers investigate at least one case of a dumped cat or dog every day



by

Dhanusha Gokulan

/

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Thu 11 Aug 2022, 7:03 PM

Last updated: Thu 11 Aug 2022, 11:32 PM

The number of pet abandonment cases has generally been on an upward trend over the past two years, with rescue groups in the country having to investigate at least one case of a dumped dog or a cat every day.

Some rescue groups have said the numbers have risen considerably after the UAE has largely recovered from pandemic-induced lockdowns. Office goers in the country enthusiastically adopted or bought household pets amid the lockdown, assuming it would last forever, said rescuers.

"Now that they have to go back to the office, they're perplexed as to who will take care of the helpless animal," Amanda Stevens, an animal rescue activist and owner of a pet sitting company Paw Central, told Khaleej Times.

"Inexperienced owners end up handing the animal to rescue groups, kennels, or worse, dumping it in the middle of the streets," said Amanda. Moreover, several rescue cases are found tortured, beaten, starved, overbred, and sometimes with maggot-infested wounds.

Abuse cases gain nationwide attention after UAE royals step in to help

Over the past several weeks and months, animal cruelty and abandonment cases have gained nationwide attention, especially after members of the UAE ruling families came forward to save the unfortunate creatures.

A stray dog that was left with severe wounds after being shot several times with an air gun is now under the care of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Grace, a Saluki mix, was rescued by the Bubbles Pet Rescue group after being found wounded in the Al Barashi area of Sharjah last month. Similarly, Sheikha Latifa bint Ahmed Al Maktoum adopted Midnight, a mixed-breed female dog that was starved, abused, beaten and overbred.

In the most recent case where irresponsible owners rescued a locked-out Husky with involvement from Dubai Police and Municipality, Amanda said many dogs being dumped are expensive breeds of working dogs such as Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and German Shepherds.

Husky abandoned in Dubai rehomed in Germany
Husky abandoned in Dubai rehomed in Germany

"These are working dogs that have a lot of energy. They need mental stimulation. Back in their natural habitat, huskies are sled-pulling dogs. Many people are buying or adopting these breeds without doing enough research on what is needed for the upkeep and maintenance of the dog," she explained.

Amanda also stated that huskies, malamutes, and snow dogs are bred in the country or imported from abroad.

"Many rescue cases do not have microchips, nor are they vaccinated. This could only mean they are bred locally," she stated. Amanda said she has successfully been able to rehome several huskies and malamutes to Germany, Denmark, and Amsterdam after they were dumped in the UAE.

Why do people dump their pets?

Amirah William, the founder and manager of the Stray Dogs Center in Umm Al Quwain, said her organisation has rescued over 8,000 animals, and approximately 7,000 have been rehomed since 2014.

"Funding is by far the biggest challenge we face. We are solely reliant on public support to operate. Whether that is through corporate or individual sponsorship, fee-paying activities, adoption charges and fundraising," said Amirah.

"The biggest mistake is people thinking pets are easy to care for, especially puppies," she said.

Experts have always maintained puppies need constant attention. "Before deciding to adopt, one has to ask themselves: Can I afford the costs associated with pet ownership? Can I provide the animal food, appropriate shelter, pay the vet bills, training, if needed, and relocation costs?" said Amirah.

Amirah also said several individuals who have to abandon their pets opt to rehome the pets themselves. However, there is a negative stigma attached which is why some people choose to dump. "The best option is to surrender to a shelter or rescue group," she said.

Similarly, the founder of the non-profit Animals and Us Shelter in Fujairah, Michelle Francis, said, "Most people don't have animal welfare at their heart. They think pets are accessories, and many people get pets because someone else has it like they are following a trend."

Michelle said, "Once the trend stops, where they think of pets as accessories, I think it will solve many problems." Moreover, during Covid-19, more people were fostering pets.

"We have come across amazing people who love their animals. However, I don't think the recent abandonments are only due to the resumption of normal activities post-Covid. As shelter organisations, we would not place animals just because people felt lonely during the pandemic. We are very strict with adoptions and fostering," she said.

Meanwhile, some instances of passing-on of pets have also happened because pet parents are genuinely unable to take care of their pets. "A single mother who came to us with a Golden Retriever said her child is having too much anxiety around the dog," she said. Amanda also called for stricter penalties and actions against people who breed pets and sell them for money.

What is Take, Neuter and Release?

Melissa Whitehead, a PR professional and an animal rescue enthusiast, said, "There are so many homeless cats and dogs in the UAE, with a few kindhearted people going out of their way to help the situation. I have assisted in the process of TRN – Take, Neuter and Release."

"This is a process many rescuers use to help reduce the number of cats and dogs born on the streets. A cage is set up with a juicy treat inside; once the cat goes in, the cage door closes, and we can get them to the vet for neutering or spaying," said Melissa.

This prevents them from breeding and having another litter of ten babies born in the streets, exponentially growing the population. "Once the cats have been neutered or spayed, we release them back to the streets making sure to keep food and water close by. Dogs tend to be a bit easier in the sense that you can approach them, but there is an alarming number of animals on the streets or abandoned in shelters," she added.

"Some shelters alone have over 200 animals, not to mention the 30 street cats you see daily," stated Melissa.

What happens to a pet that has been dumped?

According to Amirah, pet psychology is not much different to human psychology. "When traumatised, it causes heartache, pain and sometimes disconnection or depression. The same happens to your pet," she said.

Dr Sam Westhead, clinical director at the Amity Veterinary Clinic, said, "It very much depends on the animal. I couldn't begin to think of dumping my dog as it is very cruel. Animals would feel disoriented and lost and undergo bereavement."

"They are out of their familiar surroundings, and it ends up manifesting in abnormal behaviours. They practice excessive grooming or licking. They suffer stress and find themselves in a novel situation and wonder why this has happened to them," said Dr Westhead.

"Once they are picked up and taken to a kennel, they find it very upsetting as they are surrounded by other animals which feel the same way," he added.

"People need to be made aware that two things happen to all these poor homeless animals," said Melissa.

"They go to a shelter where people usually support them out of their own pockets and rely on the community to donate food, etc."

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"Once the shelter is at its capacity, the individual has no choice but to put some animals to sleep or say no to any other animals who might need a home or help. Sometimes, authorities put these strays to sleep, regardless of age, nature," she added.

- dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com


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