x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Animal welfare experts to evaluate trapping of strays

International animal welfare advocates will monitor and review Abu Dhabi's pest control authorities in an attempt to improve the welfare of strays.

ABU DHABI // Pest control companies in all three municipalities will be monitored and assessed this week as part of an emirate-wide animal welfare initiative.

The evaluations, to be carried out by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), were designed to improve the welfare of strays and ensure catching and trapping methods meet international standards.

"This is about reviewing and making recommendations," said Alistair Findlay, Middle East programmes manager for WSPA, which will evaluate the companies' catching and trapping methods, transport facilities and clinics.

Each municipality would be followed by WSPA officials for a full working day.

On Thursday, the pest control companies and animal welfare officials are to meet again to discuss the results of the assessment.

"This is a way to see if there are areas that have room for improvement," said Dr Margit Muller, the director of the Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter and the co-organiser of the capital's first Stray Animal Welfare Conference, held today. "We will not only review the companies' current progress but will also look for ways to elevate their performance."

WSPA officials said the evaluations could be a springboard for new animal welfare regulations.

"We'll do what training we can on the spot but, depending on how the evaluation goes, we can always come back and do some more specific training," Mr Findlay said.

At the conference, animal welfare experts met pest control companies to discuss international best practices and outlined ways to humanely control the stray animal population.

A crucial element of any successful campaign was public awareness, particularly in the Middle East.

"There is still a fear, a misunderstanding," Mr Findlay said. "Animal welfare is still new to some people, so it's important to educate them and help them understand the importance of the programmes."

Leaflets describing the policies in place to help control the stray animal population and how to report animal abuse or abandonment would make a difference, Mr Findlay said.

The animal shelter, operated by the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, hosts dog shows and attends exhibitions to raise the profile of the no-kill shelter, which is also the only authorised veterinary hospital in the emirate.

Dr Muller also invites schoolchildren to visit the shelter to see the animals for themselves.

"We have to start with the children if we want to make real change," she said.

jthomas@thenational.ae