x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Kind-hearted volunteers bid to rehome emirates' abandoned pets

Volunteers help find homes for abandoned dogs.

DUBAI // Marwan Awad breaks the monotony of his Dubai to Abu Dhabi commute by giving a ride to special passengers.

The 39-year-old's companions are easy going, non-smokers who do not even need conversation to keep them entertained - just a towel to lie down on.

Mr Awad volunteers to transport dogs between the emirates in a bid to help them find homes.

"Generally, they are very well behaved - I just pet them while I am driving," he said. "They usually sit right down. They can tell they are in between homes and are a little bit shy or quiet."

Mr Awad, a Canadian of Lebanese origin, works in the capital but lives in Dubai.

He started chauffeuring dogs a month ago when he joined Animal Action Abu Dhabi, a small group of volunteers who find new owners for abandoned dogs and cats.

Mr Awad, the general counsel for an investment and development company, has offered lifts to three dogs and feeds a stray cat colony one night per week in Abu Dhabi.

Animal Action matches abandoned pets and strays with potential new owners via a page on the social networking website Facebook.

The brains behind the idea was Melanie Stones, 24, who runs the group with her sister, Nathalie, and several other volunteers.

"I have always loved animals," said the artist, who splits her time between Abu Dhabi and Toronto.

About a year ago she found a dog, later called Sammy, on the street and found him a home.

She now goes to municipality kennels with other volunteers to find dogs that would be suitable for adoption.

"We usually choose the ones who have been there the longest," she said.

As the web page's popularity has grown, Ms Stones has grown busier - people alert her if they have seen a stray and ask for help if they must move away without their pets.

"Last week was the worst week," she said, explaining that she re-homed three dogs in Sharjah, two in Dubai and another in Abu Dhabi.

Most of the animals she helps are abandoned. For a dog, being deserted by its owners is a devastating event.

"They are heartbroken and they take a while to warm up again," said Ms Stones, who has three dogs and is fostering a fourth until she can find it a permanent home.

"If you are going to take a pet, make sure it is for life."

Mr Awad, who has nine cats, agreed, saying that although people benefit from a pet's company, they must also consider practical matters, such as the animal's needs.

"People should know what they are getting themselves into," he added.