Much abuse of animals is committed by teenagers and children, claim cat charity workers who want youngsters to be taught how to treat animals properly. "Kids here are taught that animals are bad, that they're dirty," said Robyn Crowley, who works at Feline Friends in Dubai. "The way they're treating these animals is inhumane. There needs to be more education on how to treat animals."
At the weekend, an estate agent in Dubai was reunited with her cat, which disappeared more than a year ago. Minky was found under a car near the Dubai airport. When the car owner took the cat to a veterinarian hospital, a pellet from an air rifle was found in his head. "I don't know if he'll be OK," said Dr Mary Ruth, who works at Dubai's Al Barsha Veterinary Clinic. "His left mandible has a serious bone infection. The injury is probably related to the pellet wound. I'd probably give him a 50-50 chance."
Dr Ruth said it was difficult to tell whether animal abuse was intentional. Often, she said, animals were left tied up not because the owner wanted to punish them, but because they did not know any better. However, she thought it unlikely that Minky's injury was an accident. "We don't see many cases of people beating or hitting their animals," she said. "But this pellet wound wasn't an accident. There are people here who really don't like animals."
Alison Lawlor, Minky's owner, said she had given up hope of seeing him alive again. She had heard too many stories of cruelty from friends who work for animal charities. She posted pictures of Minky at veterinary clinics and put a notice in a newspaper. "I gave up after a few weeks. I'd heard so many horrible stories about animal abuse in this part of the world, I just didn't think I'd see him again."
At the veterinary clinic, Minky's microchip identified Ms Lawlor as his owner. "It was incredible. I just cried when they told me they'd found him," she said. Ms Crowley was not surprised by Minky's injuries. She said she sees cats that have been burnt, skinned or thrown out of apartment or car windows. "It's shocking to see the way some of these animals are treated," she said. "It's mostly teenagers or little kids who abuse animals. It's a matter of ignorance. There is a mentality that animals are dirty, they have diseases, and so they're treated like vermin."
In August, Dubai Municipality introduced an animal welfare law, whereby people found to be mistreating their pets can be fined from Dh5,000 (US$1,360) to Dh20,000 ($5,444). Employees at Al Barsha Veterinary Clinic said they did not know whether the law had deterred people from abusing animals. Dubai Municipality officials could not be reached for comment on how many fines had been imposed. A similar law is being drafted in Abu Dhabi. Other emirates do not have specific animal welfare legislation.