x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bid to stop pet shops selling cats and dogs

Animal welfare groups seek legal ban on selling cats and dogs to encourage people to adopt them.

A boarding dog jumps up at Dubai Kennels and Cattery.
A boarding dog jumps up at Dubai Kennels and Cattery.

Animal-welfare groups in Dubai are calling for a ban on the sale of dogs and cats from pet shops.

Feline Friends and k9 Friends say the number of pets being abandoned peaks between April and September - and the trend is getting worse.

Lesley Muncey, the chairwoman of Feline Friends, receives about 40 inquiries a day from people seeking new homes for their cats, but usually only 15 from people looking to adopt.

She believes banning pet shops from selling cats and dogs would force people to adopt from a shelter or buy from a licensed breeder, reducing the amount of animals being imported into the country.

Jackie Ratcliffe, the chairwoman of k9 Friends, said people bought animals "on a whim" from pet shops, but adopting from charities required more scrutiny.

"We have hundreds of unwanted animals right now and no one is coming to take them home," she added. "I have puppies coming out of my ears."

Samer Ayach, the managing director of Pet Zone, a shop and boarding kennel, said he would be the first to stop selling animals if it helped reduce the number of abandoned pets.

He added that Pet Zone, which has three branches in Dubai, had to find new homes for at least 10 animals every year that were checked into the boarding home by people who "pretend they are only going away on vacation".

"At the end of the summer season, we discover quite a few animals left behind by their owners," said Mr Ayach. "Sometimes they wait one or two months before they disappear and the emails stop."

Mr Ayach said a ban on selling animals in pet shops would help breeders become "more professional". But he added that he would wait for the Government to pass a law before he stopped selling pets.

Todd Carson, the managing partner at Dubai Kennels & Cattery, said requests to board animals peaked during holiday periods, such as Christmas and Eid, even though Dubai was "oversaturated" with such facilities.

There are about 24 boarding homes in the UAE, with prices varying from Dh40 to Dh115 a night.

A pet hotel in Abu Dhabi, Cloud9, has flat-screen televisions in "VIP rooms", costing Dh150 a night.

Cloud9 owner, Afra Al Dhaheri, started the company in a response to the number of abandoned animals she saw in the capital.

Margit Muller, director of Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, which offers boarding for cats and dogs, said there was "absolutely no need" to abandon an animal when going on holiday.

"It is very irresponsible and entirely unacceptable to expose it to starvation and possible death," she added.

Dr Hisham Fahmi, a veterinary expert at Dubai Municipality Veterinary Services (DMVS), said no law to stop selling pets was in the pipeline. But he added that harsh penalties and fines exist for people who abandon animals.

"It's a criminal act to abandon your pet - like losing a person in your family," he said.

People can ask DMVS to rehome their animals, but they also have the option to euthanise them.

Sterilisation is also an effective way to reduce the numbers of unwanted pets.

A female cat can give birth to a litter of between two and 10 kittens at least three times a year, said Ms Muncey.

"We need to reduce the number of cats in Dubai, and people must stop breeding them," she said.