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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Abu Dhabi children being taught about animal welfare through cat interaction

The volunteer-led education programme is in response to the alarming rise in animal cruelty cases being reported across the UAE.
Children from Al Rabeeh School visit a street cat feeding station set up by volunteers from Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Dr Susan Aylott
Children from Al Rabeeh School visit a street cat feeding station set up by volunteers from Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Dr Susan Aylott

ABU DHABI // Following an increase in cruelty cases against cats in the capital, a volunteer-led education programme is looking to change the situation by giving children lessons in their care.

Volunteers at Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi (Awad) have witnessed a rise in abuse and want to educate younger people to avoid further cases in future.

Welfare groups in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have reported cats being shot or maimed in recent months. Sickeningly, some incidents have been filmed and posted on social media.

Al Rabeeh school in the capital was the first to benefit from the lessons given by Awad’s Dr Susan Aylott. Children have also been visiting a nearby feeding station, helping a colony of 15 stray cats.

Dr Aylott has established several cat-feeding stations and works with the municipality on its sterilisation programme.

“In light of what has been happening recently, with alarming animal abuse cases, it has been heartening to receive a positive response to this project. To have the school on board will hopefully lead the way for others to follow,” she said. “We show the children these stations are important so the cats become part of a stable, healthy colony.”

Teachers and pupils were given an age-related education pack from the International Foundation for Animal Welfare, with teacher notes and a hour-long work programme on animal welfare.

Briton Dr Aylott gave lessons through an Arabic translator.

“The programme is available in English and Arabic, so easily transferable to other schools.”

Phil Yates, Al Rabeeh assistant vice principal, said the school’s 850 pupils would benefit from the lessons and have enjoyed interacting with the colony.

“We’ve always had a large number of strays around the premises of our school and noticed our children’s perceptions of cats weren’t as positive as we would have hoped,” he said.

“Our student council and house captains have enjoyed maintaining the feeding station so far, and learning how to care for cats, respect animals and their environment.

“We hope the children share their positive experiences and what they’ve learnt with their family members and continue to promote animal welfare.”

Schools wanting to adopt an animal welfare programme can contact Dr Aylott at animalwelfareAD@aol.com.

nwebster@thenational.ae