Executive Council order means that Abu Dhabi emirate's only authorised centre for neutering street cats and dogs will open a new kennel and clinic soon.
300 strays to be neutered daily under no-kill policy
ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital will neuter, vaccinate and microchip about 300 cats a day by the end of this year, in line with the Executive Council's new no-kill policy towards stray animals.
The hospital, owned by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, is the emirate's only authorised centre for neutering street cats and dogs. It can process about 50 cats a day while it finishes construction of a new shelter, which will include a kennel and clinic.
In April, the Executive Council announced a ban on euthanising animals amid reports that hundreds of cats were being put down every week within hours of being caught.
The Falcon Hospital now euthanises only animals that have incurable diseases or are too injured to live, said Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, the hospital's director. The facility, which offers around-the-clock veterinary emergency services to all bird species, opened its animal shelter in May.
The dogs at the shelter are offered for adoption after being neutered and vaccinated, rather than released on to the streets. There are currently 13 dogs, and the new shelter can house up to 150.
"A society is judged by how it treats its weakest members," Dr Muller said. "That means a solution to help control this situation of cats and dogs running around, and a shelter to provide a home for them."
Pest-control companies hired by the Centre of Waste Management-Abu Dhabi (CWM) trap stray cats by luring them into carrier cases with food, then taking them to the hospital. There, they are neutered, fitted with microchips, vaccinated and treated against worms and fleas.
The cats stay in a room overnight to recover with other cats from the same colony, and are released the next day to the area from which they were captured. Their ears are clipped so authorities know not to bring them to the clinic again.
The five companies hired to collect the cats will be monitored regularly to make sure they return the animals to their original location, where they have a relationship with other local cats, said Omar al Shoubaki, CWM's pest control contracts manager.
"These cats are not regarded as waste," he said. "We are carefully overseeing this."
Anita Signorino, trapping co-ordinator for Feline Friends Abu Dhabi, applauded the authorities' efforts. She said she has been monitoring one of the contracted companies and has seen the cats returned to the same place. In the past, she has seen other companies leave the cats in different parts of the city.
"It is an extremely big step, one that we have been asking for for years and years," she said. "To just move them to another location or kill them without a proper sterilisation programme just does not work, and we have seen that."
Ms Signorino said she is not opposed to euthanising cats that are extremely sick, but that should be a very small percentage of the number caught.
"They're street cats, but people still care for them," she said.
The hospital, which neutered more than 2,000 cats last year, has four staff members dedicated to caring for cats and dogs. An expanded animal shelter under construction on the hospital's campus, near the capital's airport, should be completed by June.
The hospital will have a website this year to list animals brought there for residents looking for lost pets; it already has pet training and grooming services.
The clinic allows residents to leave their pets for as long as several months at a time to prevent owners from abandoning their animals. The rate starts at Dh35 a day for cats and Dh40 for dogs.
"For those who feel they have no other options, this could be a way to keep these animals off of the streets," she said.