DUBAI // The woman was in tears when she called the kennel. Her husband had lost his job three months ago, she explained. He was arrested when he could not pay their credit card bill and remained in prison. She and their two children had to leave the country by the end of the month, even though there was no home and no job for her to go back to.
So, she asked, could Posh Paws Kennels and Cattery find her two Pekinese dogs a home? "She couldn't take them with her," said Laura Glanfield, who owns and runs the kennel. Ms Glanfield is among a number of kennel owners and operators in and around the emirate reporting that an increasing number of pets are being abandoned as a result of the economic downturn. After capping her waiting list at 20 animals, Ms Glanfield has so far found one of the Pekinese a home.
She will house the other in her kennel if a home is not found by the time the family has to leave. With just one abandoned cat, the problem seems mainly to involve dogs. "People are losing their jobs and simply can't afford to take their pets back with them," she explained. Summer is always a busy period for kennels, a natural time of the year for families and individuals to go away, a time to escape the heat at the end of the school year.
Last year, animal welfare charities reported a spike in intakes from careless expatriates who failed to make appropriate arrangements for their animals to travel and left them behind. But this year the financial crisis seems to be creating a different problem. More people are having to leave quickly, giving them neither the time nor the means to arrange for their pets to go too. As the end of summer approaches, kennel owners and operators who already have long waiting lists expecting to see an increase in the number of pets left unclaimed.
Some businesses say they are turning away as many as six clients a day because they do not have space to meet the demand. At Al Zubair Animal Care, in Ajman, Dr Hardika al Mehairi has already helped several regular customers find new homes for animals they could no longer care for. But she is holding out hope for the other "long-termers" at the centre, those whose designated stay has already expired.
Only time will tell if their owners have simply been delayed or are not coming back. "It is a problem every year," she said, "but this year I am anticipating more." The number of dog abandonments has been "really bad" this summer, with K9 Friends receiving about four calls a day from people asking to find new homes for their pets, said Martina Bosson, the office manager . The centre has moved to a larger facility in Al Quoz, which is now full with 100 dogs.
Fifteen more have been sent to foster families, while between 30 and 40 are on a waiting list to get in. The charity has even had to turn to other overloaded kennels, such as Petzone in Al Quoz, for help. "There are a lot of dogs, I can't even tell you how many we have had," said Ms Bosson. "As soon as we have found a dog a home, we take in a new one. We are certainly jam-packed." Larger dogs, particularly cross-breeds, are the most vulnerable to being abandoned, while smaller animals are more likely to be adopted.
"Most people who call us with small dogs they can't keep, we advise to advertise," she explained. "We have a waiting list for people wanting small dogs and also Labradors. It is the typical Dubai cross-breeds which end up being found on the streets. They are more difficult to re-home." Strays of Abu Dhabi (SAD) has witnessed a "massive" number of abandonments on the capital's streets and also in veterinary clinics, said Dr Rachel Shaw, director of the charity and a vet at the American Veterinary Clinic. However she was unsure if the number had risen, as the charity had doubled its capacity to house strays since last year.
The clinic, she said, had implemented a policy at its kennel since last year, requiring pet owners leaving their animals there to pay in advance and provide their credit card details. Even so, a Saluki was abandoned last week after being brought in supposedly for a last-minute, three-day stay. Its owner was moving to Saudi Arabia, and provided the clinic with false credit card details. The dog, Lilly, was already a former SAD rescue animal. It was turned over to SAD by the clinic and is now available for re-homing.
Back at Posh Paws, a British man who relocated to Doha after losing his job in the construction industry insisted he would return to collect his two large dogs as soon as he was settled in his new home. He initially refused offers by Ms Glanfield to help re-home the pets after they had spent several months at the kennel, but soon stopped taking her calls. A month ago she saw to it that his dogs were adopted out.
"I've got people who have lost their jobs and have gone back to the UK, for example, and their dogs are still here waiting," she said. "There are two dogs who have been here since November and another since January. One of the families has now found a job and is going to take the dogs and the other is still looking." Ms Glanfield is now insisting that customers pay in full and in advance. firstname.lastname@example.org