Welfare groups say regulations reducing hassle and cost of relocating pets when leaving the UAE should cut down the number of abandoned animals.
Pet owners praise quarantine change
DUBAI // New rules making it easier to take cats and dogs to the UK could cut the number of pets abandoned by British expatriates, according to animal welfare groups.
Since the British government changed its quarantine rules in January, some pet relocation firms have noticed an increase in the number of people who want to take animals with them when they leave the country.
"It's far easier and more convenient to do now, so more people will send their pets back," said Dr Elizabeth Thomas, the owner of Pets Oasis, a veterinary clinic and relocation service in Dubai. "We've already noticed that some people have changed their minds about bringing their pets back with them now. These changes will obviously mean that there are fewer abandoned pets from now on."
Under the previous rules, animals had to have blood tests six months before entering the UK.
During that period, they were either kept in the UAE or placed at quarantine kennels in the UK.
During the financial crisis, when many Britons lost their jobs, hundreds of pets were abandoned in the UAE, either at shelters or left on the streets. Owners had to cancel their visas, so were unable to complete the six-month waiting period in the UAE or could not afford the costs of boarding the animals at kennels in the UK.
Leslie Muncey, chair of Feline Friends, said that at the height of the crisis, the charity received hundreds of requests from people looking to re-home their cats.
"A lot of people were prepared to take their cats home but found they couldn't under the old rules," she said. "They called us saying that they had lost their jobs and could we look after their cats.
"It's a great thing that they have changed the rules and I should think that it will help reduce the amount of abandonment."
Janet Walker, global relocation account manager at Dubai Kennels and Cattery, said that the six-month wait, either in the UAE or in quarantine in the UK, was what made it difficult for many families to relocate their pets.
But despite the scrapping of this requirement, she does not expect the number of relocations to necessarily increase this year.
"The people who contact us are people who are conscientious about their pets," said Ms Walker. "If you're a conscientious pet owner you would do what you needed to do to take your pet home, one way or another."
Under the new rules, owners will only have to pay the cargo cost of shipping their animal back to the UK - about Dh1,000 for a cat and Dh5,500 for a large dog - and get an EU health certificate, costing Dh920 through some agents.
A further blood test, which can cost about Dh850, will no longer be needed.
The UAE is one of 54 non-EU countries to which the new, lighter rules apply.
Animals coming from the Emirates will still require a microchip, costing Dh150, and a rabies vaccination, priced at Dh275, before they leave to get the EU health certificate.
All this must be done 21 days before the animal travels.
Animal Inn, one of 20 quarantine facilities licensed by the British government, said it expects to lose £150,000 (Dh860,000) this year due to the changes to the regulations.
Under the previous rules, it could cost up to £1,500 (Dh8,800) to house a cat for six months or £2,300 (Dh13,500) for a large dog.
Jill Witte, one of the owners of the facility, said the company had been forced to make redundancies.
"We've lost around half of our business," she said. "It's a big blow, but we expect to survive."
@ For more on ANIMAL WELFARE, visit thenational.ae/topics