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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Animal welfare campaigners vow to block rogue pet shop from reopening

Petholicks has already been closed down in JLT, Dubai and in Ras Al Khaimah but welfare workers hear that the owner is looking to set up shop again in Al Wasl, something they are keen to avoid.

A notice placed on the closed doors of the Petholicks store in Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy Emirates Animal Welfare Society
A notice placed on the closed doors of the Petholicks store in Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy Emirates Animal Welfare Society

Animal welfare watchdogs are determined to block a pet shop owner from opening up a new business in Dubai – despite having outlets closed down in Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Ras Al Khaimah.

Petholicks was warned about its conduct by JLT authority Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) after several customers complained puppies had been sold with pre-existing illnesses.

Although some customers were offered refunds, the shop continued to trade until DMCC finally suspended its licence to trade live animals in May.

However, the operation continued in RAK, at a Petholicks shop on Khuzam Road, with further reports of sick animals being sold from there, and online.

The government-backed Emirates Animal Welfare Society (EAWS) is now determined to stop any other shops being opened by the same business owner, as rules state he can legally continue operating unless found guilty of neglect in court.

Evelyn Priess is executive management member of the EAWS. “I received several reports from residents who bought pets from this particular shop in Ras Al Khaimah saying some animals they bought died, while others were sick,” she said.

Mrs Priess said most animals sold are sick because they are given no vaccinations, are sold underage or staff are poorly trained.

“I have seen myself how they are giving a shower to a puppy with a very bad skin rash,” she added.

“This animal was beyond suffering and the showering increased the problem massively, so the puppy removed his itching skin with his own teeth. It was terrible to see an animal suffering like this.”

The business owner denied any wrongdoing and insisted he was complying with all regulations. He has not responded to requests to comment on the most recent closure, in RAK.

Before any purchase at Petholicks, all customers had to sign an acknowledgment accepting the pets were at risk of certain viruses, such as parvo, distemper and coronavirus.

The terms stated: “If any of our pets are diagnosed with the mentioned virus we only replace, if the pet is available with us, or we will issue a credit note from the shop that can be used for one year from the date issued.”

The EAWS, which is registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs, submitted complaints to the Department of Economic Development in RAK.

An official there said the shop was closed due to licence-related problems, and warned buyers to be aware of unlicensed sellers trading in animals online.

“We have heard the owner now wants to open a shop in Al Wasl, which is a concern,” Mrs Priess said.

“It will then be in the hands of Dubai Municipality. The EAWS will write a letter to support action against this business reopening, if required.”

Dubai Municipality said it was powerless to stop the same business from reopening in the emirate, unless there was a court order to prove a conviction on animal welfare grounds.

Faisal Ibrahim Almuammari, head of the municipality’s veterinary control unit, said that although business owners must comply with licensing authority requirements, no prior experience is required to open a pet shop, though those tending to the animals must have relevant training.

“We do consider a person’s history, only if the person has been convicted by court order regarding violations of animal welfare rules and regulations,” he said.

“The pet shop must be in a suitable place and have a trade licence from the relevant authority.”

The municipality conducts regular spot checks on pet shops through its qualified veterinary inspector. Those not complying with health and technical requirements of a licence are fined, or in some case ordered to close.

Mr Almuammari said any businesses with rescinded trade licences in free zones for breach of animal welfare regulations are free to open elsewhere, unless a court order is in place.

“Selling animals online is not allowed unless there is a licence in place for selling online from the Department of Economic Development,” he said.

“Such trading should be reported directly to DED to take the proper actions.”