x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Kennel comfort for abandoned dogs

The animal shelter K9 Friends is moving to roomy new premises thanks to volunteers and the Government of Dubai.

DUBAI // From a cage to a comfortable, air-conditioned kennel - 74 rescued dogs will wake up today in a new home, the result of two years of hard work fundraising and building by their two-legged friends. The dogs being looked after by the rescue association K9 Friends are enjoying the first weekend at its new Jebel Ali shelter.

The Dubai Government donated the land and buildings to the 20-year-old organisation in 2007, after it was asked to vacate a warehouse in Al Quoz that it had called home for seven years. Yesterday 74 of the 102 dogs that will eventually go to the new shelter were moved by an army of volunteers to the kennels at Jebel Ali Industrial Area. The other 28 dogs are with foster families and will move in the weeks ahead.

Jackie Ratcliffe of K9 Friends said the move had been a long time coming. "I'm hot and sweaty and dirty but I'm very excited," she said as she packed up the last of K9's belongings at Al Quoz. "I brought my camera because it is also a sad moment. This place has a lot of memories, but it's all very exciting." Thousands of dogs have been found new homes since K9 Friends was set up. Originally designed to be a UAE kennel club for pedigree dogs, its emphasis soon shifted to abandoned dogs - caring for them and finding them new homes.

Yesterday a toy poodle called Valentina, found in Nad al Sheba covered in tar which left her blind in one eye, was among the first of the rescued dogs to sample the new home - which has four kennel blocks with air conditioning, raised bedding areas and tiled floors. There is a shop which will sell dog food and accessories, an arena for educational talks to visiting schools, a quarantine zone for sick and un-vaccinated dogs and interview rooms where volunteers can meet prospective new dog owners.

It is, Ms Ratcliffe said, a far cry from the previous facilities, which consisted of one warehouse divided into kennels, with electric fans to cool the dogs and a small make-shift office with an outside run. "To have all of this space is going to be amazing," she said. "It's fabulous news for the dogs. There's really no comparison. They have been in metal cages looking on to each other, now they are going to be in proper air-conditioned, tiled rooms with rubber matting.

"They will be in soundproofed blocks of 10 so it is going to be quieter and cooler for them. And there will only be two dogs per kennel instead of three which we have had to do in the past because of space issues." The move is not only good news for the dogs. For the three permanent staff members at K9, who lived in portable housing at the previous site with no cooking facilities, the move means they will finally have apartments on-site, with separate rooms, kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Indika Dangamuwa, 31, from Sri Lanka, has been working with K9 Friends since he moved to Dubai nine years ago. "We are all really happy. It is much, much better," he smiled. "Before, because of fire regulations, we were not able to cook but now we have our own kitchen. "We can live much better lives, it's very exciting." Although the new shelter does not officially open until after Ramadan, Ms Ratcliffe says K9 Friends will try to maintain its service throughout the summer.

loatway@thenational.ae