Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

Could 'pet matchmaking' help solve problem of abandoned animals?

The service analyses pets' personalities and seeks to match them to owners

Chloe's profile describes her as young, friendly and attractive. Jane is middle-aged and can come across as anxious, but opens up if you take the time to get to know her. Another is nicknamed Van Gogh and may have a missing ear, but also has bags of personality.

This is a matchmaking service, but one with a difference. It seeks to match pets with owners.

The concept of pet matchmaking was introduced to Adihex, the annual hunting, equestrian and heritage exhibition, this year by Afra Al Dhaheri, the owner of the Cloud 9 Pet Hotel in Abu Dhabi who also takes in and rehomes abandoned or unwanted animals.

The 32-year-old believes that, by taking time to get to know a pet and potential owners, she can make sure ‘couples’ are compatible, and therefore help reduce the growing problem in the UAE of unsuitable animals being taken in but later abandoned.

“I spend a lot of time with these animals, I know their personalities, I know what they need,” said Ms Dhaheri, an Emirati entrepreneur and animal rights activist from Abu Dhabi. “So when I see a dog that’s not so friendly with kids, and someone comes in with kids who are going to be loud and noisy and stress the dog out, then I will say no.

“I will learn about people’s lifestyle, what their kids are like, and details like the size of their home. If they live in apartments it’s very important for us to see the [tenancy] contract so we can see if pets are allowed. It’s for the owners' sake too.

“We go through so many questions, do they have other animals at home? Some people we recommend to foster first, maybe for a 10 days or a month, to see if they are ready for the responsibility. That’s very important to us.”

Ms Al Dhaheri brought several cats, which people can consider attempting to ‘match’ with ahead of a possible adoption, to Adihex. Each animal has their own ‘profile’ giving details of their age, likes and personality on their cage - as a way of quickly introducing them to a potential now owner. Dogs and other animals are also available.

Ms Al Dhaheri may soon take her idea online, by uploading profiles of available animals including key facts about their personalities to her company’s website.

And it is all aimed at tackling a serious problem, the growing issue of pet abandonment in the UAE. Ms Al Dhaheri, who takes in and rehomes abandoned animals at the same time as running a commercial business, believes the problem is getting worse.

“I have noticed an increase in animals being dumped,” she said. “At Cloud 9, we receive four or five dumped animals a week, a lot of them are either tied outside our gate or left in crates in evenings when no one's around.

“It’s not a new problem and it’s not just cats and dogs. Over the past seven years we’ve had reptiles, snakes, baboons, so many different animals. I’ve had people come in and ask if they can surrender cheetahs and lions.

“Sometimes, people might go through a difficult time and have to give their pet up, and I completely sympathise with that. But other people, they will give their pets away for no reason, because they say they don’t have time for it or they say it’s getting bigger. People travel and don’t come back, and leave their pets behind. And it’s not easy rehoming the animals, I’ve got animals that have been with me since I opened, seven years ago.

“The schools, the universities, colleges, I think they have to speak a lot more about animal welfare because we have to educate their kids.”

Updated: September 2, 2019 04:11 AM

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