A Doberman Pinscher and two Salukis from the Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Centre were on their way to new homes in Canada yesterday, thanks to caring children from the RAK Academy.
The pupils raised almost Dh4,000 to send the dogs to the frosty climes of Ontario, where they will find what they could not in the UAE – a loving family home.
The dogs had lived at the shelter for months before volunteers contacted friends at the Arabian Saluki Centre of Canada to find homes for them. All they needed was money for the tickets – and the youngsters stepped in to help.
Ellie Hartley, 10, sold lemonade, bracelets and bags. She washed cars and painted ladies’ nails, all to raise money for the dogs.
“I think that they’re no different than humans, and I think we should help them, if we have the chance to,” said Ellie, who is from England. “It makes me feel really happy, because in the shelter they see all of these people come in, and they think for a moment, ‘I’m going to be adopted’, but they’re not.”
Saluki crosses such as Silver and Abby are common strays in the UAE, overlooked by owners who favour dogs with pure pedigrees.
In Canada, any Saluki is a rare and treasured creature.
“The Saluki is not well-known at all in Canada,” said Debbie Jones, the Saluki centre manager. “There are only six breeders in the country, and they breed very few litters each year and tend not to sell them outside of their breeding circle.”
The non-profit Saluki centre works with Arabian Gulf shelters to send unwanted strays from the Middle East to Canadian homes.
Silver and Abby will be fostered by a Malamute and Bouvier breeder in Ottawa. Magnet, the Doberman, has the opposite problem to the Salukis – he is a big favourite in the UAE for all the wrong reasons.
“There’s too big of a risk of people just wanting him for the wrong reasons,” said Ellen Quanjer, the shelter manager.
Dog fighting remains a popular underground sport in the UAE. The biggest admirers of Dobermans tend to be young men, and although the RAK shelter only places dogs with families, many who own big dogs have reported them stolen.
Ms Quanjer believes Canada will be safer for Magnet, who will go to the Ontario Doberman Rescue.
“There is a line-up of people wanting to adopt him,” said Ms Jones. “They raised the money for his flight and are looking forward to meeting him at the airport.”
The stray desert dogs will be greeted like superstars, and dressed in style. “They cope quite well in the cold,” said Ms Jones. “They do have to wear coats ... even heavy-coated dogs wear coats on the coldest days.”
The dogs were due to fly in large crates from Dubai to Amsterdam, where they will check into an animal hotel for some rest and exercise before flying on to Toronto. They have been vaccinated and can go directly into foster homes.
They will travel with a professional pet relocator, who has volunteered for the job.
Her ticket was about Dh5,000 and it costs Dh1,480 for each dog to fly and stay in the pet hotel. Canadians raised Dh5,000 with an auction and the children in RAK are raising the rest. So far, they have Dh3,800 of a Dh7,000 target.
The Canadian centre was picked because a volunteer in RAK knew people there. The RAK shelter said it would consider working with European groups in future.
This was the second year that Year 6 pupils from RAK Academy have worked with the shelter as part of their curriculum. They visit it every Wednesday.
The fundraising was entirely student-led. Megan Barker, 11, who last year organised a swimathon for Year 5 and 6 pupils, is this year holding auditions for a talent show.
“If I didn’t have four pets, I’d adopt them all,” said Megan, who has two cats and two dogs and wants to be a veterinarian. “People should at least come and have a look and be aware of what’s going on and know how many dogs need homes.”
The pupils travelled to Dubai airport to say goodbye to the dogs.
“They’re no different than us. In fact, they have more feelings than us,” Megan said. “They’re not just things that shed fur everywhere.”