Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

Charities: abandoned pets can die of stress

The UAE traditionally experiences an increase in the number of animals that are left behind in the hot summer months as residents relocate

The warning comes after Rescue of Abu Dhabi (RAD) took in a 16-year-old cat after his former family, who were leaving the country, threatened to hand him to a shelter, where his fate would be uncertain. The charity said he died of a broken heart before he could go to his new family. 
The warning comes after Rescue of Abu Dhabi (RAD) took in a 16-year-old cat after his former family, who were leaving the country, threatened to hand him to a shelter, where his fate would be uncertain. The charity said he died of a broken heart before he could go to his new family. 

Charities have urged pet owners to consider the severe stress being left behind can cause to animals in the run up to summer, and what is known as 'abandonment season'.

The UAE traditionally experiences a spike in the number of animals being abandoned during the hot summer months as more residents relocate, with some leaving their animals behind.

Pet abandonment became punishable by law in the UAE late last year, but charities say they still regularly see cases.

Many pets are simply dumped, but scores are handed over to a charity or shelter. And while this is not against the law, rescuers say even handing pets over to someone can have a devastating impact on their health.

The reminder comes after Rescue of Abu Dhabi, a group that organises adoption days for stray animals, took in a 16-year-old cat whose family were leaving the country. The owners had threatened to hand him to a shelter, where his fate would be uncertain, if they could not find a home for him right away.

RAD, which operates under Emirates Animal Welfare Society’s licence, did find him a home, but sadly Gesh, or Henry as the charity renamed him, died before he could meet his new family.

Tracey Hughes, who runs RAD with two other volunteers, said that although the cat was old he had been in good health, confirmed by a veterinary visit and blood tests.

But this week, he began suffering from seizures and died in Ms Hughes’ arms within hours.

“Unfortunately, he was so sad after he was left by his mum. If I am honest, maybe this is the reason why he left us,” she wrote in a post on Facebook following Henry's death.

“His new family were travelling today to pick him up and are also heart broken … Please don’t leave your cats or dogs behind. They have feelings too.”

Experts say animals really are capable of experiencing emotions.

Veterinarian Frank McMillan, who wrote the book Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals, cited scientific research that proved that emotional harm is more painful to pets than physical harm. And many will actually choose physical suffering if they are forced into a decision.

He pointed to an experiment where a puppy was separated from a person it was emotionally attached to via an electrified grid. The puppy chose to cross the grid, repeatedly receiving shocks, to be reunited with the person.

"Animals experience fear, anger, upset, hurt and as a reaction to that they have a stress response, which causes emotional and physical issues," said Dr Susan Aylott, who set up and runs Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi.

"That is the reason we consider abandonment to be animal abuse. It makes it more likely that the animal will die."

Earlier this year, Sharjah Cat and Dogs Shelter said it euthanises up to 10 cats and 10 dogs a day because it does not have the resources or space to keep the animals, many of which had been abandoned by their owners.

"When you take a pet on you should always consider the long-term impact on you, your family, finances and travel. It shouldn't be taken lightly," said Dr Aylott.

"An animal is for life, full stop."

Updated: April 24, 2019 05:16 PM

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